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Worries over emergency planning

PUBLISHED: 11:44 19 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

A SIMULATED jumbo jet crash onto an Essex nuclear power plant has confirmed fears that the ability of the emergency services to respond to a major terrorist attack in the UK has not been sufficiently improved since the September 11 attacks.

A SIMULATED jumbo jet crash onto an Essex nuclear power plant has confirmed fears that the ability of the emergency services to respond to a major terrorist attack in the UK has not been sufficiently improved since the September 11 attacks.

An official report into an exercise which simulated an aircraft crash into the Bradwell-on-Sea nuclear station near Maldon on the River Blackwater, found confusion and slowness in the emergency response.

A review is now under way into whether there should be more exercises to test defences at other nuclear sites around the country, according to the BBC.

Essex county council's emergency planning chief Peter Pearson said the Bradwell exercise had alerted him to gaps in the county's preparations for disaster.

He said: "In any of the planning assumptions, never had we been led to believe that the implications would be so widespread.

"Basically, we need more resources in order to run a much wider range of exercises, to train more people and have more capacity to deal with larger numbers of casualties."

The report follows chilling predictions that a terrorist attack on the Sellafield reprocessing power plant in Cumbria could kill more than three million people. That scenario suggests it would take a hijacked jet just four minutes to divert off its flight path and crash on the site, causing a fireball more than a mile high and emitting 25 times as much radioactivity as the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine in 1986.

Professor David Alexander, disaster expert at the Royal Military College of Science, said: "There is no doubt whatsoever that September 11 was a wake-up call for the emergency services and the process of emergency planning."

Independent nuclear consultant John Large said nuclear power stations were vulnerable to terrorist attack.

"The basic premise of nuclear power plant safety is that they are protected against accident or natural hazards.

"Accidents are unintentional and unintelligent attacks, whereas a terrorist attack would be intelligent, deliberately seeking out the vulnerabilities, not just of a power station, but of the emergency planning measures which go in after an incident."

He said the Government needed to keep the public informed, so that they help themselves in the case of an incident, rather than rely on emergency workers to deal with the massive consequences.

"In the US, the public is being told about the scale and type of incident to be expected from a terrorist attack. In Britain, there is a kind of silence," he added.


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