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Irish food at risk from UK nuke disaster

IRELAND'S food would be heavily contaminated in the event of a very severe accident at one of the proposed nuclear power stations in the UK.

But a report by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) found that even in the worst case scenario, health effects on people in this country would be limited.

The RPII has examined the potential radiological impact on Ireland of new nuclear power stations that may be built at up to eight sites in the UK before 2025, of which five are on the Irish Sea.

HARMFUL

So far, one nuclear power station – Hinkley Point, Somerset – has been granted planning permission.

The RPII published a new report that examined possible impacts of the new plants during day-to-day operations, and in the event of severe accidents.

Dr Ann McGarry, chief executive of the RPII, said: "This report concludes that severe radiological effects in Ireland are unlikely as a result of building new nuclear power plants in the UK, but a socio-economic impact will be seen in the event of a very severe accident. Our role at the RPII is to advise the public and the Government, and to ensure people are protected from the harmful effects of radiation.

"It is important that we remain focused on the need to maintain and constantly review Ireland's emergency plans to deal with the consequences of any nuclear accident abroad."

In its new report, five severe accident scenarios were assessed as part of the study that ranged in likelihood of occurrence from one in 50,000 to one in 33m per year.

In general, the less likely the accident, the greater the radiological impact in Ireland, the report found.

The report said that food controls and agricultural protection measures would be required if any of these accidents occurred to ensure that food on sale in Ireland was safe.

"Food controls and protective actions would be required for many years to reduce radiation doses from consumption of contaminated food," according to the RPII survey.

However, the report showed that the routine operation of the proposed nuclear power plants will have "no measurable radiological impact on Ireland or the Irish marine environment."

It said in the case of the most severe accident scenario examined in the study, "short-term measures such as sheltering would also be required".

The report also examined the consequences of a large accidental release of radioactivity into the Irish Sea, equivalent in size to that after the Fukushima accident.

It found that the resulting radiation dose to people in Ireland, who eat very large quantities of fish and shellfish, would be less that the annual radiation dose limit for the public.

CONTAMINATION

The report found that: "Given the prevailing wind direction in Ireland, radioactive contamination in the air, either from routine operation of the proposed nuclear power plants or accidental releases, will most often be transported away from Ireland."

Meanwhile, it said where the chance of an accident was one in 33m per year, the impact on Ireland was predicted to be the greatest, as food and agricultural produce would be "heavily contaminated".

fdillon@herald.ie


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