Monday, 12 January 2015

Revealed: secret plan to deal with Hunterston nuclear leak

The UK Government has released an official document detailing actions that would have been taken if there had been a nuclear emergency at Hunterston.

Covering the period 1976 to 1983, the papers relate to the two nuclear stations on the North Ayrshire coast – Hunterson ‘A’ and ‘B’.  The ‘A’ station ceased production in 1990 and ‘B’ is set to operate until 2023, having been originally scheduled to close in 2011.

In the event of nuclear material leaking into the atmosphere, the dossier reveals plans for a quarantined ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary to become a treatment centre for people suffering burns and radiation sickness.  West Kilbride Community Centre was to be turned into a reception centre and decontamination zone, while local residents were to be issued with potassium iodate tablets, which are used to help reduce the effect of radioactive iodine lodging in a person’s thyroid.

The emergency plan also required for police officers to tour streets in local towns, using a loudhailer to advise residents of the danger.  Where a major contamination had occurred, the strategy was for a mass public evacuation with police tasked to co-ordinate the event.  The document states, “It is essential that evacuation of persons will commence not later than one hour after the police have been requested to begin operations.  If the evacuation takes place during school hours, the police will contact headmasters.”

The file, which has just been made available through the National Archives, contains a letter that police were to hand to residents in local towns affected by nuclear contamination.  The letter reads:

“Dear Sir/Madam,

“An incident at Hunterston nuclear power station has resulted in the release of substances which could be harmful if breathed or eaten. You are advised to move immediately to a reception centre which is being set up at West Kilbride Community Centre.

“Whilst awaiting transportation please remain indoors and keep all windows and external doors closed as much as possible.

“Keep your radio or television tuned to the BBC for any special instructions.”

Similar plans remain in force while the Hunterston ‘B’ station is operational and the ‘A’ station is being decommissioned.

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