Thursday 22 February 2018

Irish advice on reacting to nuclear incident out of date by more than decade

The leaflet advises people to “Go in, Stay in, Tune in” should a nuclear emergency arise and monitor TV and radio for updates.
The leaflet advises people to “Go in, Stay in, Tune in” should a nuclear emergency arise and monitor TV and radio for updates.
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Much of the Government's advice on how citizens here should react to a major nuclear incident abroad dates back more than a decade and includes no reference to modern technology.

The Irish Independent has learned that the Department of Housing would lead the response to dealing with the effects of radioactive fallout from a nuclear conflict.

That's because the old Environment Department's functions were split after the last election, with some remaining with the Housing brief.

A spokesman said the Government's Office of Emergency Planning would meet in the event of a nuclear incident abroad to co-ordinate a whole-of-Government response and offer advice to the public.

The Departments of the Taoiseach, Defence and Agriculture, as well as the Garda, HSE and Met Éireann would be involved. The Department of Communications website features a section on the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents (NEPNA). It includes a link to a public information leaflet published in 2006.

The leaflet advises people to "Go in, Stay in, Tune in" should a nuclear emergency arise and monitor TV and radio for updates.

It contains no reference to updating the public through social media, which was in its infancy at the time. The Housing Department is manages the NEPNA, supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is the principal scientific adviser to the NEPNA and is responsible for providing radiological advice to Government and the public in the event of a nuclear incident.

There is similar advice on the EPA's website.

The EPA's advice says that even a serious explosion at a nuclear plant in Britain would not cause any short-term health effects in Ireland. It says in the longer term a radioactive plume could, depending on wind direction, reach Ireland and lead to a small increased cancer risk.

Staying indoors to reduce exposure is advised as an "initial precaution".

The EPA says there is no longer a need for iodine tablets which were issued in 2002. The closure of two vulnerable nuclear reactors in the UK since has meant the threat of radio-iodine has "substantially receded". An EPA spokeswoman last night said there were plans for a new national emergency website - which would include advice for nuclear incidents.

It will include the use of social media to update the public.

The spokeswoman added that two exercises to test the NEPNA plan have been carried out within the last year.

A report on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan - also published on the EPA website - said trace amounts of radioactive isotopes were detected in Ireland afterwards.

However, the dose was less than would normally be present here and was "of no significance from a public health or food safety point of view".

Irish Independent

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