ONR has determined a revised area around the Sellafield nuclear site where the local authority, in this case Cumbria County Council, is required to have an emergency plan in place to protect the public in the unlikely event of a radiation emergency. ONR is required to make these decisions under the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR).
The off-site emergency planning area has been revised from a circular 2 km radius area to an approximately circular area varying between 6 and 7 km from the centre of the site. This does not mean that risks at Sellafield have increased, but it takes into consideration ONR’s revised principles for determinations, Sellafield Ltd’s latest assessment of the hazards, and their increased understanding of certain elements contained within the previous assessment.
It is important to note that Cumbria County Council and Sellafield Ltd have for many years undertaken some aspects of emergency planning to the 6km distance.
The change in area is a result of ONR using its revised principles for determining more effective REPPIR off-site emergency planning areas with the intention that this will lead to additional improvements in public protection. As well as rigorous assessment of hazards, local strategic and practical issues have been considered, such as the location of vulnerable groups. These have been applied such that the determination provides for an area that is both sensible and practical from an emergency planning perspective. The re-determined area includes the communities of Seascale, Gosforth, Thornhill, Beckermet, as well as other smaller towns, villages, and residences.
George Sallit, ONR Deputy Chief Inspector said:
“Although the risks on the Sellafield site have not increased (the overall radiological risk presented by the site has not changed significantly) better understanding of several elements, particularly potential seismic damage to facilities that leads to the release of radioactive materials, indicates that the extent of the off-site emergency planning area should be increased. I believe that the enhanced REPPIR emergency planning is in the best interests of public safety, demonstrating our commitment to continuous improvement.
By following our revised principles, ONR inspectors have not only assessed the operators’ detailed assessments of the radiation hazards but have worked with Cumbria County Council and other agencies to ensure that practical considerations, relevant to the Copeland area, have been taken into account when defining the area requiring an off-site emergency plan.”
ONR has written to Cumbria County Council and Sellafield Ltd advising them of the decision. The Council will revise their off-site emergency plan in consultation with the other emergency responders to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place throughout the new area. REPPIR requires the Council to revise their off-site emergency plan within six months of the determination (or longer period as ONR may agree in writing).
As part of Cumbria County Council’s REPPIR off-site emergency planning requirements, Sellafield Ltd have arrangements in place to initiate urgent countermeasures to people living close to their site if there is an accident. Sellafield Ltd will work closely with Cumbria County Council and other responders to ensure that these arrangements continue to complement the wider REPPIR emergency plan.
Full details of the determination can be found in the Project Assessment Report.