Residents get new nuclear warning system

By Sarah Chambers AN extra emergency warning system for residents is to be put in place around the Sizewell nuclear power stations. The new scheme is set to be introduced for residents and businesses inside the 2.

By Sarah Chambers

AN extra emergency warning system for residents is to be put in place around the Sizewell nuclear power stations.

The new scheme is set to be introduced for residents and businesses inside the 2.4km detailed emergency planning zone around the plants and involves sending a recorded telephone message simultaneously to all of them.

It will be in addition to current warning systems, which include police officers broadcasting messages by loudspeakers and radio or television bulletins.

Although there has never been a nuclear emergency declared at a civil nuclear plant in the UK, emergency procedures are kept under constant review.

The decision to introduce an automated telephone warning system in the unlikely event of an emergency was taken after a similar scheme was established in Torness in Scotland.

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A letter and a question-and-answer leaflet has been sent out to residents to explain why the new system was being introduced.

It said: "Messages regarding counter-measures (sheltering or the use of potassium iodate tablets) currently require police officers to contact each of the premises within the affected zones and is clearly a time-consuming task.

"In order to be able to provide a faster service, Suffolk County Council, British Energy and British Nuclear Group have been evaluating automated telephone warning systems to work alongside existing arrangements."

A computer database of telephone numbers is linked to a large bank of dedicated phone lines. If an emergency occurs, the computer calls all the numbers in the appropriate zone and passes a pre-recorded message.

In the event of an emergency, the message will tell residents that a nuclear emergency has been declared and ask them to stay indoors and close all windows and outside doors.

It will then ask them to tune into their local radio or television station for further details. Information on taking potassium iodate tablets may also be given.

Sizewell B station director, Matt Sykes, said: "It is important that we look at the best ways of alerting the public in the highly unlikely case of an emergency.

"The telephone system is favoured by other organisations, such as the Environment Agency, and has already been implemented elsewhere.

"It allows us to send out a single message instantly to everyone within our emergency planning zone. This will be an extra layer to the emergency plan and is not intended to replace anything, so the present advice supplied to residents is still valid."

Residents and businesses are being invited to take part by supplying up to two phone numbers.

If people do not have a phone or do not want to give out their phone number, they will still be covered by the existing arrangements.

The telephone system, which can potentially send out about 1,500 calls a minute, is due to be implemented at a number of other British Energy sites over the next year.

sarah.chambers@eadt.co.uk

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