A SENIOR Suffolk official has disputed suggestions that too little attention has been paid in the past to protecting the wider community from a nuclear disaster on the Suffolk coast.

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The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) – a national group of councils opposing the expansion of nuclear power in the UK - has welcomed proposals to extend the Sizewell emergency zone to four kilometres to include the whole of the town of Leiston.

Proposals by the Suffolk Resilience Forum, which includes the emergency services and local councils, also suggests a campaign to raise awareness of emergency arrangements within a 15 kilometre radius of the Sizewell site.

The NFLA says it welcomes the acknowledgement that there is a low awareness of the potential dangers of a nuclear emergency in the local community and that efforts should be made to increase information about the likely impact over a wider area. It says in a statement: “The NFLA asks the obvious question of why such information has never been attained in the decades of existence of the Sizewell nuclear reactors which clearly would be beneficial in effectively responding to a nuclear emergency.”

Mark Hackett. NFLA chair, said: “The Fukushima disaster showed the huge problems in evacuating large numbers of people and that evacuation is more than likely to take place over a much larger area than the Sizewell plan suggests.”

Andy Osman, Suffolk’s head of emergency planning, said the current public consultation on emergency arrangements was an attempt to conform to emerging changes to UK policy, partly as a result of the nuclear emergency at Fukushima in Japan.

“Contrary to the NFLA’s assertion, Suffolk’s contingency plans have always been extendable beyond the detailed emergency planning zone and part of the consultation is aimed at formalising these wider arrangements to promote better public awareness,” he said. Mr Osman said he welcomed the NFLA’s views and hoped these would assist the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Office for Nuclear Regulation to make changes to national policies and guidance for nuclear emergency planning.

“We should not forget that the Sizewell emergency arrangements are for the protection of local communities and it is important to recognise that for the first time many local people and community groups are now able to have their say on proposed changes to emergency plans rather than these just being imposed,” he added.

The public consultation on the emergency plan proposals ends on April 8. Visit www.suffolkresilience.com or www.suffolk.gov.uk for more details.

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