The UK Government is to formally announce today that it has given the go-ahead for the construction of a new £18,000,000,000,000 nuclear power station “Hinkley Point C” – on the Somerset coast just 16 miles from Penarth.
There are already two existing nuclear power stations on the same site.
“Hinkley Point A” is an old Magnox station built in the early sixties which no longer produces power and is the process of being decommissioned.
“Hinkley Point B” is a so-called “second generation” Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactor which is currently in operation. Building work began on this station in 1967 and it began feeding power to the National Grid in 1976 .
“Hinkley Point C” is the new double-reactor station which the French energy company EDF won planning approval to build in 2013 and has been given go-ahead today . It will provide sufficient power for 6,000,000 homes.
Somerset County Council already has elaborate emergency planning procedures which would go into action in the event of an emergency involving any accidental release of radioactive material – but it’s clear that Penarth and Cardiff fall well within the designated 15-40 km radius of what is described as “Zone Z”. Penarth is 24 kilometres from Hinkley Point.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council has published an International Nuclear Event Scale” on its website which would be “used for promptly making known to the public, in a standard way, the seriousness of events reported at nuclear sites. No countermeasures affecting the public would be likely below level 5. Examples: Chernobyl – Level 7; Three Mile Island – Level 5; Windscale Fire – Level 5.”
The Vale Council says: “Although nuclear plants are designed to ensure that accidents affecting the public are highly unlikely it is prudent to have plans to deal with them. “
The council says that, when radioactive materials are released in an accident, people can be irradiated by breathing, by direct radiation from radioactive materials carried in the air and deposited on surfaces – and by eating and drinking food and water containing radioactive materials.
The basic council advice is stay indoors with windows closed – but evacuation is an option as it “avoids relatively high short-term exposures by taking people away from the affected area” and also recommends taking iodine tablets. Somerset Council specifies this medication as “Potassium Iodate Tablets” – but says these would necessary only in the event of a serious radioactive emission from Hinkley B power station and in “downwind sectors”.
The Vale Council web site says “radioactive material deposited on soil or grass finds its way into food through crops and animals. It might be necessary to ban milk or other foods containing too much radioactive material.”
Somerset Council says that in the event of a major accident “Food/Milk Control may be necessary out to 40 km [Penarth is 24 km away] and implemented by Food Standards Agency (FSA) with precautionary food safety advice followed by statutory restrictions.”