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Sizewell: N-plant emergency zone could be shrunk to include only 23 homes

09:35 07 June 2014

The Sizewell nuclear complex

The Sizewell nuclear complex

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Plans to shrink the emergency zone around the Sizewell power station complex were met with disbelief at the latest meeting of a community liaison group.

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The proposal to narrow the radius of the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) surrounding the plant near Leiston - from between two and three kilometres to just one kilometre - was announced in front of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group (SSG) and members of the public this week.

Little over a month since the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) decided to replace its 2.4km circular zone - which enveloped a population of 5,500 - with a variable 2km-3km area based largely on postcodes but extending to Leiston and Aldringham, SSG members were informed that the boundary could now reduce to include just 23 households.

Those residents would be the only ones offered pre-planned counter measures of shelter, evacuation and pre-issued potassium iodide pills in the event of an accident that can be “reasonably foreseen”. Meanwhile, an outer precautionary zone will be extended out to 15km to allow appropriate emergency arrangements for the worst case scenarios.

Andy Osman, head of emergency planning at Suffolk County Council, told the meeting that the reduction was mainly down to the reduced risk at Sizewell A, where defuelling and decommissioning is largely complete.

He said the results of an evacuation study last year showed that Leiston could be evacuated in three to four hours in the “worst case scenario”. He said that 1,300 households were evacuated within six hours in 2007, in the face of an expected tidal surge, and that 1,200 were evacuated in the same time during last December’s tidal surge.

Mr Osman also said an exercise, codenamed Eagle and carried out on May 21, had tested the response in the event of both an accident that can be reasonably foreseen and a more severe accident, and that the outcome was that Sizewell was “fundamentally sound”.

But Pete Wilkinson, a co-opted SSG member, said it was “shameful” that following the events of Fukushima, the zone was to be reduced and not expanded.

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