16 Dec 14

Changes to emergency planning at Sizewell

Plans for new emergency planning arrangements for Sizewell nuclear power stations come together on 1 January 2015.

Residents and businesses in Sizewell, Leiston and Aldringham will receive a letter this week about the changes which will see a reduction in the area where urgent counter measures would be required now Sizewell A is de-fuelled.

Key changes in the new offsite emergency plan for Sizewell include –

  • A reduction in the area countermeasures would be required in the unlikely event of an offsite release from the Sizewell nuclear sites
  • An increase in the area where information is provided to the public

Sizewell power stations’ are writing to local people to let them know about the changes. This follows public meetings and regular updates to the Sizewell Stakeholder Group over the last two years.

For the small number (around 20) of residents and businesses living within 1km of Sizewell power stations the emergency planning procedures are unchanged. They will continue to receive a calendar with offsite nuclear information on countermeasures advice and information from Public Health England.

About 7,000 residents and businesses living within Sizewell, Leiston and Aldringham will also receive information from Public Health England on radiation and health every three years.

Sizewell B Station Director Jim Crawford said: "Nuclear sites are designed, built and operated so the likelihood of an accident is extremely low. Nevertheless, there is a well rehearsed emergency plan in place to protect the public.

"I would encourage anyone with an interest of what we do at Sizewell B to come along to the station’s visitor centre to learn more."

Background information

Every nuclear power station in the UK has an area around it where well-established emergency planning procedures are regularly tested in the unlikely event of a release of radiation at the site. Countermeasures, such as sheltering and taking potassium iodate tablets, are put in place for local people within this predefined area. It is important to stress that an incident of this nature is extremely unlikely but emergency planning measures are in place.

The area is defined by calculating risk based on the worst reasonably foreseeable accident that could happen at the power station.

So why are emergency planning arrangements for the Sizewell power stations in Suffolk changing?

The risk of a release of radiation at Sizewell has reduced.

Sizewell A has come to the end of its operating life and the fuel has been removed from the reactor, the potential for accidents from this station has significantly reduced so the area where countermeasures could be beneficial has been reduced.

Sizewell B power station is the youngest nuclear power station in the UK with a modern design and multiple barriers designed to protect the public.

Nuclear engineers with decades of experience have looked at thousands of fault sequences and worked through the possibilities of the worse effects.

Every event imaginable is thought through, no stone is left unturned and the possible consequences are carefully examined.

We have provided this information to our industry regulator the Office for Nuclear Regulator and they have taken this into account in determining the new area for emergency planning at Sizewell.

Suffolk’s Director of Public Health, NHS England, and Public Health England have considered the need for urgent countermeasures as a result of the reduction in risk from the Sizewell site. It has been determined that the need for urgent countermeasures of taking potassium iodate tablets (stable iodine) and sheltering can now be reduced in line with the reduction in risk, and would now only be required in a 1km zone around Sizewell B

The plan is in line with the revised principles published by the ONR for emergency planning in January 2014.