The regulations for radiological protection and emergency preparedness around the UK’s nuclear sites will be updated during 2019 to reflect international best practice.
The new legislation, known as REPPIR 2019: Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations became UK law on 22 May 2019 with local authorities given a year to implement the changes.
The new regulations are very similar to the previous requirements - the main change sees Local Authorities now determining the size of the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ). The DEPZ is an area around a nuclear facility which requires detailed emergency plans to be prepared. Historically, this area was determined by the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and is currently delineated by a 2.4km circle around the nuclear facility.
ONR will continue to regulate arrangements under its approved code of practice and nuclear operators, including Magnox (Hunterston A) and EDF Energy (Hunterston B), will continue to provide technical guidance to Local Authorities for local plans. It is important to understand that this legislation is not specific to Hunterston and applies to all nuclear sites across the UK.
Although, it is worth noting that in 2016, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) concluded that due to the substantial reduction in both the hazard and risk of a radiation emergency at Magnox’s Hunterston A Power Station, that there is no longer a reasonably foreseeable radiation emergency that could occur and there was no requirement for any detailed planning.
As part of the implementation process Magnox and EDF has submitted their respective Consequence Reports to North Ayrshire Council. This report sets out the technical justification for determining the minimum distance of the DEPZ.
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Using the technical advice provided by the operator, they have also sought independent advice from Public Health England (PHE) and their own knowledge of the local population, geography and infrastructure. Once all of the information is assessed it will be utilised to determine the DEPZ boundary.
In the meantime, the small number of households currently within the DEPZ will continue to receive information and pre-distributed stable iodine tablets to allow them to be prepared in the unlikely event of an offsite release of radiation. The ‘risk’ rating for the Hunterston site has not altered and remains very low.
The new regulations also mean that local authorities are now responsible for changes to the wider emergency planning boundaries - known as the Outline Planning Zone (OPZ). Currently these are set at 10km but ONR have extended these to 30km for civil nuclear sites across the UK.
The changes enhance the plans already in place and ensure that local authorities have good mapping information in place which detail facilities like care homes and schools and also provides agencies with robust information to support countermeasure and evacuation advice in the unlikely event of an off-site release.