Suffolk 'not ready' for terror attack
A LEADING nuclear terrorism expert has cast serious doubt over Suffolk's ability to deal with a terrorist attack on the Sizewell nuclear power site.John Large, an independent consultant, who helped assess radiation risks from the Chernobyl disaster and from the ill-fated Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, believes Suffolk County Council is "burying its head in the sand" over a potential terrorist threat.
A LEADING nuclear terrorism expert has cast serious doubt over Suffolk's ability to deal with a terrorist attack on the Sizewell nuclear power site.
John Large, an independent consultant, who helped assess radiation risks from the Chernobyl disaster and from the ill-fated Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, believes Suffolk County Council is "burying its head in the sand" over a potential terrorist threat.
Mr Large, owner of the London based consulting engineers Large & Associates, criticised Suffolk's emergency plan as being "full of kinks and glitches" which would result in "absolute chaos" in the event of a major nuclear disaster.
But county emergency planning officers insist the plan is "adequate" and meets all legal requirements, adding that they are not aware of any specific terrorist threat relating to Suffolk.
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Mr Large believes the plan could result in greater rather than fewer casualties, should it ever be implemented.
He said it barely distinguished a radiation-based incident from any other emergency and that acts of terrorism were not taken into account.
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There was also too much reliance on Government assistance being available in the aftermath of a significant radiation leak, Mr Large added.
"The plan assumes that there will be sufficient time to prepare in detail, that every contingency action will run like clockwork and that resources – both equipment and human – will be more than sufficient," he said.
A question mark also hung over the readiness of health services locally to deal with a nuclear emergency. Mr Large revealed that some health clinics in the county had admitted having no knowledge of the plan or their role in it.
Mr Large also said the plan had not established "trigger levels" of radiation, which, if exceeded, would require counter measures – such as potassium iodate tablets – being made available to the public.
He was concerned that emergency services and council officials would not be equipped with protective clothing or have any means of testing their own radiation levels. Nor was there any discussion of how cover would be maintained if workers had to withdraw.
He believes a key priority should be empowering the public to do everything they can to protect themselves.
He said: "We should stop worrying about frightening the public and start giving out sound advice."
Mr Large added: "You cannot blame local authorities. They have no extra resources or equipment and no real directive as to how they should prioritise. The real problem is that the Health and Safety Executive still appears to regard a terrorist attack on UK installations as unforeseeable."
Jeff Stacey, the Suffolk County Council's emergency plans officer, said: "The level and detail in the planning for all our emergency plans has to be a sensible allocation of resources for events that are unlikely to happen. I believe we have this balance right."
He added that the Emergency Plans Team looked at many scenarios – including terrorist attacks – along with accidents and natural disasters and was constantly revising and improving its plans.
The council has published a summary of the emergency plan on its website www.suffolkcc.gov.uk
Simon Stevens, Suffolk police spokesman, said the police carried out regular exercises at Sizewell, along with other agencies, to fine tune the local response to emergencies – the most recent of which was staged in September.
He added that plans were extremely detailed on all matters including briefing the media and the public.
Mr Large's comments come as he prepares to publish a report on the implications of September 11 for the Nuclear Industry, in a UN disarmament journal. The report explores the inability of power stations – including Sizewell B PWR – to withstand the impact of aeroplane crashes.
He found the nuclear industry considered there was little justification in "beefing up" defences as it considered the likelihood of such an attack as sufficiently low to be discounted.