Sizewell B: Nuclear watchdog could soon make a decision on N-plant safety zone extension

Sizewell B

Sizewell B - Credit: Archant

The UK nuclear safety watchdog is expected to make an announcement in the next few weeks on whether the emergency zone around the Sizewell nuclear site should be extended.

Suffolk emergency planners and officials from the site operators, EDF Energy and Magnox, recently met at the headquarters of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to discuss whether the existing 2.4km zone should be extended to 4km, to include the whole of Leiston.

At present the zone – destined to be the main focus of the emergency response in the event of a major release of radioactivity from the Sizewell site – only includes a small part of the town.

The Suffolk Resilience Forum, comprising the county’s emergency services and local authorities, put forward the idea of extending the zone in a public consultation following a review of the existing plan. The proposals also included the pre-distribution of “anti radiation” tablets to schools in the area.

There was general support for the proposals from members of the public who responded to the consultation. But, despite people being evacuated from a 20km zone following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, EDF made clear that it considered the existing 2.4km zone for Sizewell to be “appropriate”.

An ONR spokeswoman said the recent meeting had provided the agency with an opportunity to discuss the proposals with EDF and Magnox ahead of making a decision.

An EDF spokeswoman said the company welcomed work to seek the views of the local community.

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But she reiterated that they felt the current 2.4km zone should be retained – unless there is a material change in the risks from the Sizewell site or changes in UK legislation or nuclear emergency planning policy.

“It is important to recognise that there has been no change in the safety risk assessment associated with Sizewell B and, as the consultation document correctly explains, the assessed risks associated with Sizewell A have reduced as a result of the removal of its nuclear fuel,” she added. “There has been no change in UK legislation or policy regarding offsite nuclear emergency planning.”

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