Planning for Emergencies: A Response to Fukushima 07Jan2013

The Fukushima Disaster

A Tsunami and Earthquake on 11th March 2011 disabled the power supply and cooling of nuclear reactors at Fukushima nuclear power plant. Vast quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air as a result of the natural disaster. More than year on, thousands of people who were living around Fukushima at the time of the disaster have still not returned to their homes and continue to struggle with the health effects of radiation exposure.

Lessons and recommendations

Following investigations of the accident, a Japanese Parliamentary panel said it found “gaping holes” in safety standards and emergency procedures. It also found that despite the fact that events were triggered by a natural disaster, what happened at the plant was predominantly man made and could have been prevented.

The report catalogues the serious deficiencies in the response to the accident. The risk of a tsunami knocking out all power to the plant, resulting in the releases of radioactivity was already known but no action was demanded from the power station operators.

Some of the key problems which the panel found had compounded the effects on the people of Fukushima and Japanese confidence in the nuclear industry included:

  • Emergency response issues
  • Evacuation issues
  • Regulator and operator failures
  • shortcomings in laws and regulations

Notably, the panel identified inadequate training of staff at the power station and lack of provision for responding to emergencies. The Report recommended a reform of the crisis management system.

There is concern that the nuclear industry in Japan will not recover as the political obstacles may now be too high. It is therefore critical for the UK nuclear industry to demonstrate that it has learned from the disaster.

More information about the report can be found at the links below:

The Emergency Response Centre at Sizewell B

Acting for EDF Energy, we helped prepare an application for planning permission for an Emergency Response Centre (‘ERC’) at Sizewell B, Suffolk. The intention is for this ERC (located 2km away from the main site) to come into operation should a natural disaster occur.

We reviewed the proposed ERC against the report by the Office for Nuclear Regulation Chief Inspector into the Fukushima disaster, and the results of EU-required stress tests. Using our specialist knowledge, we reviewed the application and supporting materials (which included flood risk assessment, transport, ecology and other environmental information) to identify and recommend action on legal risks.

We won planning permission for the ERC on 18 September 2012.

For more information and advice on how to ensure full compliance with the latest legal and regulatory requirements, contact Paul Zyda