How best to respond to a nuclear emergency; shelter, evacuation or relocate?

See FT article here.

There are two quite separate themes going on here: evacuation and relocation. The former is about running away from an airborne plume and is an urgent action. The later is a longer term issue.

For prompt evacuation the debate is about what dose do you have to avert for it to be worth running. For an elderly or infirm person, where evacuation may cost their life, the averted dose would have to be well up in the range where deterministic effects kick in hard (but there is a added complication if their carers all want to run). For an infant, able to see evacuation as an adventure if the adults around them are not too visibly stressed and with longer for stochastic effects to hit, the trigger level of avertable dose is much lower. It is not easy to put numbers to these trigger levels, not easy to estimate avertable dose in the heat of the moment and not easy to reassure a population being hit with both radiation and media outpourings.  Decision makers are in a hard place!

For relocation, there is more time to take measurements, more time to talk to the people affected and more time to reach a decision. Still a hard place to be. The balance is between the disruption to people’s lives if they have to move permanently, particularly if they cannot recover their belongings and if the receiving population is negative in any way, and the worry about living in an area with elevated contamination levels. Experience shows that either way some of the people affected are going to need support for a long time to come.

There are no easy answers.

Brexit, Energy Security and the Nuclear Industry

An interesting paper has been issued by the House of Lords, European Union Committee (10th Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 63, Brexit: Energy Security). This looks at the potential impact of the UK leaving the EU on the supply of electricity and gas. It finds that we may lose some of the market efficiencies we enjoy as a member and may have to make political concessions to retain some benefits, may have a accept higher prices for using interconnectors, and may be in a poorer position in the event of a continent-wide energy shortage.

There is a big uncertainty about the influence the UK will have on European energy policy when outside the EU and further debate about how, if at all, this will affect us. This theme was summarised by the statement that “Brexit can have severe long term implications for UK’s energy security if economically rational outcomes are not sought by both sides”.

From the point of view of trading electricity the EU does not seem to be a very good option for a trading partner. The report looks at the experiences of Norway and Switzerland. The EU seems to want to impose its own rules, not just the current rules but all future ones. To use the Norway model would be to lack any say in the rule making but to be a member of the EFTA, which the UK has rejected. Switzerland sits at the centre of Europe and has 40 interconnectors between it and the EU. Despite this it does not have the ease of trading electricity with the EU. Meanwhile, we are told that, “a study requested by the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy concluded: “With or without the UK, the EU will be able to complete its market, to achieve its climate and energy targets with feasible readjustments, and to maintain supply security.”

On the energy security front, the committee worried that we would cease to benefit from “EU solidarity” so, if energy was in short supply the EU members would be more likely to share what was available between themselves rather than allow it across interconnectors to the UK. The report concluded that: “Post-Brexit, the UK may be more vulnerable to supply shortages in the event of extreme weather or unplanned generation outages. While we note the Minister’s confidence in future UK energy security, we urge the Government to set out the means by which it will work with the EU to anticipate and manage cross-continent supply shortages that will affect the UK”.

There is an important section on Euratom. It is stated that: “not only do nuclear power stations supply a significant amount of low-carbon electricity [20%], but the continuity of that supply helps balance less predictable renewable sources, providing further assistance to the UK in meeting its decarbonisation objectives”. I’m not sure that this is entirely true if you take it to mean that a nuclear reactor will immediately take up the load if the wind drops. Nuclear energy provides “baseload” supply. Nuclear power stations work best when providing a constant level of output – load following is possible but is not one of their strengths. What really balances the unpredictable renewable sources are the rapidly variable generators such as hydro, gas turbines and diesel units. Not all of these score highly on the decarbonisation test.

It seems widely agreed that leaving Euratom will have no effect on nuclear safety – that is covered by UK regulation and the ONR. However, without replacement of the controls on the import and export of nuclear material, including fuel, and the free movement of skilled workers becomes more difficult. Without at least some of the Nuclear Co-operation Agreements held by Euratom being replicated trade becomes harder.

ONR have been given the task of Safeguarding but have stated that “Establishing a system that seeks to replicate all aspects of the current Euratom regime by March 2019 is unlikely to be achievable. A system that seeks to meet our international reporting obligations, and which can then be further developed over time is a more realistic starting point and is what we are aiming to achieve by March 2019

In summary. We are leaving a club that distinguishes between “them” and “us” and we don’t know how much difference being a “them” rather than an “us” will make to our relationship with the EU or its member states. The European energy markets are not necessarily going to be open to us in the transparent way they are now. This means that the price of energy flowing between the UK and EU becomes a political question as well as a market question. The market becomes less efficient. Our place in the queue when the whole of Europe is lacking energy also changes for the worst.

Britain should have an energy policy that ensure that our lights stay on. The role of the EU member nations in that policy must not be taken for granted.

The obscure definition of Control in UK Cabinet Office parlance

My understanding of the history of emergency planning in the UK nuclear industry was that we adopted the management tool we call “Command and Control” after the Piper Alpha accident. In that disaster a fatal fire on a North Sea rig was prolonged while the responders sought somebody with authority to stop pumps feeding the fire with gas from neighbouring fields.

Following this lesson we ensured that our emergency arrangements unambiguously identified one role on site who would have unquestioned authority over all resources and actions on site after an emergency had been declared and another who would have similar unquestioned authority over the rest of the Company in support of the emergency response. We then gave people in these roles suitable training and a letter of authorisation promising them the full retrospective support of the Management Board for any actions they initiate when in post in response to an emergency.

An important set of components of the emergency scheme ensured that the person in this role was as fully aware of the changing situation as could be achieved and provided with the full range of technical advice that might be needed (situational awareness) and that their instructions (in terms of strategic foci) were converted to actions (orders) and every effort was made to complete the actions and report back in the time allotted. In this way the crisis is managed.

For many years I’ve worked with the Cabinet Office definitions of Command and Control.

I’ve just been reading the output of a New Zealand ministerial review Better Responses to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies in New Zealand and I was struck by the completeness and clarity of their definitions of command and control:

  • Command (authority within an agency) is executed vertically, and includes the internal ownership, administrative responsibility, and detailed supervision of an agency’s personnel, tasks, and resources. Command cannot normally be exercised outside an agency.
  • Control (authority across agencies) is executed horizontally, and is the authority to direct tasks to another agency, and to coordinate that agency’s actions so they are integrated with the wider response. Control authority is established in legislation or in an emergency plan. This is control to task a certain agency towards a certain outcome (achieve a managed evacuation for example). It is not control over the actual resource – personnel and vehicles.
  • Coordination: bringing together agencies and resources to ensure unified, consistent, and effective response. 

    Command and control assists with coordination by defining authority between and within agencies.

These definitions can be compared to the UK Cabinet Office definitions as given in Cabinet Office Glossary

  • Command and control – The exercise of vested authority through means of communications and the management of available assets and capabilities, in order to achieve defined objectives.

Note: Command and Control are not synonymous terms – see the separate glossary entries.

  • Command – The exercise of vested authority that is associated with a role or rank within an organisation, to give direction in order to achieve defined objectives.
  • Control – The application of authority, combined with the capability to manage resources, in order to achieve defined objectives.

Further research quickly yielded the US and UK Department of Defence definitions

US Department of Defence, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms

  • Command and control — The exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission.
  • Command — The authority that a commander in the armed forces lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment.
  • Control — Authority that may be less than full command exercised by a commander over part of the activities of subordinate or other organizations.

MoD, Joint Concept Note 2/17 Future of Command and Control

  • Command – The authority vested in an individual of the armed forces for the direction, coordination, and control of military forces.
  • Control – The authority exercised by a commander over part of the activities of subordinate organisations, or other organisations not normally under his command, that encompasses the responsibility for implementing orders or directives.

UK doctrine for civilian multi-agency working is based on co-operation of the Emergency Services rather than the control of all relevant resources by a Commander from a selected service (see Emergency Response and Recovery Non statutory guidance accompanying the Civil Contingencies Act 2004). This is consistent through the JESIP programme and the development of the Joint Decision Model.

I get the impression that historically our definitions of Command and Control may have been fudged so that it could be claimed that the concept is at the heart of multiagency response when, in fact, it clearly isn’t. We exercise Command and Control (or at least Command) within our own company or service structures and coordination between companies and services. Generally it seems to work in emergencies. If that is accepted then we don’t need to mangle the definition of control and “The application of authority, combined with the capability to manage resources, in order to achieve defined objectives” can be replaced with something clearer. If we feel that command and control across all the responders is more likely to achieve success than coordination (I’m certainly not in a position to judge this) then we should move in that direction. Either way better definitions of these key terms would be helpful.

IAEA Publication: Knowledge Loss Risk Management in Nuclear Organisations

 

BEIS has issued a Ministerial Statement to both houses of Parliament (Commons and Lords) with regard to policy in the light of leaving euratom. It proposes a twofold approach of (1) “negotiations with the European Commission to seek a close association with Euratom and to include Euratom in any implementation period negotiated as part of our wider exit discussions”; and (2) “to put in place all the necessary measures to ensure that the UK could operate as an independent and responsible nuclear state from day one.

IAEA Risk cover

It might do well to read a recent publication from IAEA Knowledge Loss Risk Management in Nuclear Organisations. This sees challenges resulting from an aging workforce, an industry that runs plant for several decades with different skill sets being required for design, build, operate and decommission stages leading to changing workforce and management. The long duration of nuclear projects also results in issues of technology obsolescence and the need for the introduction of new skills such as cyber security. In the UK we can add the risks posed by the free market “policy” that is resulting in a series of very different prototypes being built or proposed.

This is an issue that should concern BEIS because, of course, the average tenure of a civil servant in a particular influential post is very short compared to the nuclear project duration. They need to ensure that they maintain the knowledge, skills and systems to understand what the NDA, operators, ONR, the environment agencies have been tasked to do and how well or badly they are doing it.

The IAEA document seeks to increase awareness among nuclear organisation managers of the need for a strategic approach and actions plans to identify and manage the risks of individual and organisational knowledge loss.

The IAEA projections show the number of nuclear reactors operating in the world rising, with most of the growth in countries that already have a nuclear industry. Within this picture reactors are retiring and will take experienced resource to decommission them. An even greater cause of need for new recruits is expected to be the loss of skilled and experienced workers to retirement, internal transfer or promotion, or resignation. One scenario for the USA shows 19,000 new positions and 63,000 new hires by 2030.

The IAEA propose a Strategic Workforce Planning system that is composed of a cycle of Workforce Analytics, Workforce development, Execution and Metrics and Business Unit Planning.

They call for a “Coherent intervention by governments, industry, universities and R&D organisations” to provide a feed line of skilled and competent workers.

In the UK the NDA fund R&D in the area of nuclear decommissioning to meet its obligations under the Energy Act “to promote and, where necessary, carry out research in relation to its primary function of decommissioning” and “to ensure that there is a skilled workforce available to undertake the work of decommissioning” (NDA University and Research Strategy). Various universities offer nuclear power material to undergraduates and postgraduates (For example: Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, and Cambridge). These have different levels of direct links to the industry and it is not entirely clear that the situation can be called a “strategy” or described as “coherent” but it does (presumably) provide a feed of skilled (but not experienced) youngsters for the industry.

IAEA_Process

Figure 1 Knowledge devlopment from IAEA NG-T-6.11

Figure 1 shows the IAEA view of the relationship between workforce planning and knowledge management. Those new to the industry are likely to spend some working, learning and training before becoming independent competent workers and then some further time before achieving recognition as an expert in their field. The art of knowledge transfer management is to ensure that, where an expert leaves for any reason while their skills are still needed, a suitable replacement is ready to take the post.

On the industry side, workforce planning is required Site Licence Conditions 12 and 36 (below). This leads to systems which identify key skills, suitably qualified and experienced personnel and succession management.

 

Licence Condition 12:

Duly authorised and other suitably qualified and experienced persons

1 The licensee shall make and implement adequate arrangements to ensure that only suitably qualified and experienced persons perform any duties which may affect the safety of operations on the site or any other duties assigned by or under these conditions or any arrangements required under these conditions.

2 The aforesaid arrangements shall also provide for the appointment, in appropriate cases, of duly authorised persons to control and supervise operations which may affect plant safety.

3 The licensee shall submit to ONR for approval such part or parts of the aforesaid arrangements as ONR may specify.

4 The licensee shall ensure that once approved no alteration or amendment is made to the approved arrangements unless ONR has approved such alteration or amendment.

5 The licensee shall ensure that no person continues to act as a duly authorised person if, in the opinion of ONR, he is unfit to act in that capacity and ONR has notified the licensee to that effect.

 

 

Licence Condition 36:

Organisational capability

1 The licensee shall provide and maintain adequate financial and human resources to ensure the safe operation of the licensed site.

2 Without prejudice to the requirements of paragraph 1, the licensee shall make and implement adequate arrangements to control any change to its organisational structure or resources which may affect safety.

3 The licensee shall submit to ONR for approval such part or parts of the aforesaid arrangements as ONR may specify.

4 The licensee shall ensure that once approved no alteration or amendment is made to the approved arrangements unless ONR has approved such alteration or amendment.

5 The aforesaid arrangements shall provide for the classification of changes to the organisational structure or resources according to their safety significance. The arrangements shall include a requirement for the provision of adequate documentation to justify the safety of any proposed change and shall where appropriate provide for the submission of such documentation to ONR.

6 The licensee shall if so directed by ONR halt the change to its organisational structure or resources and the licensee shall not recommence such change without the consent of ONR.

The IAEA recommend a knowledge management team and define a list of participating roles and stakeholders for a typical nuclear power plant and the team’s main functions. It then outlines an Organisational Competence Loss Risk Assessment methodology. Among other tools this suggest a risk matrix which lists the skills requirements in each area and maps who, within the organisation, has those skills. This leads to the identification of those areas at risk of knowledge loss and the development of an Action Plan to restore the situation.

Another tool assesses the skills and knowledge of any employee nearing retirement, promotion or otherwise likely to leave their current post and initiates an Action Plan if appropriate.

The remainder of the document provides tools, forms, guidance and case studies.

 

REPPIR 2018 delayed?

The SRP tell me that “BEIS has advised that it is its intention to publish the Government response to the REPPIR consultation and the draft REPPIR regulations in late Spring 2018 with a view to laying the regulations before Parliament in Autumn 2018”.

I thought that the new regulations had to be in place in February of this year but didn’t think they were anywhere near enough to completion.

I can’t yet find a BEIS press release on the subject.

Space For Smarter Government Programme – Showcase 2017

SSGP ShowcaseI attended the Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP) Showcase in November 2017 in the BEIS Conference Centre in London. The slides from last year’s event can be found on the SSPG website (here). We can expect similar publication of this event in due course.

The stated purpose of SSGP is “Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data”. The premise being that the capabilities offered by space science including Earth Observation and Communications offers the ability to deliver some current programmes of work more efficiently and to deliver capabilities that were previously unavailable. The progress made is hampered by the lack of understanding by the potential customers of the abilities available and the lack of understanding of the needs of the customers on the part of those developing the technology. This showcase is one of the attempts to get the two sides to communicate more effectively and drive forward better and more cost effective government services. The term used was “willing partnership”.

A number of projects were showcased. These included

  • improving the management of peat lands and thereby improving water quality and lowering costs in Scotland;
  • improving the monitoring of the health of forests;
  • Improving the monitoring of land usage, in particular which crops are being grown;
  • Improving the monitoring of flood water and areas at risk.

These projects relied on the ability of data analysis to look at how the signals from earth observation vary in relationship to what is on the ground and to calibrate it against relatively small scale land-based surveys. Once the system is calibrated it can cover very large areas quickly and provide a lot of information and/or help focus ground resources. This has resulted in significant savings in the costs of inspections while improving their coverage.

Earth observation can also highlight changes from period to period, allowing unexpected changes to be investigated on the ground.

The real prizes are gained when different datasets such as ground surveys or instruments, drones, helicopters and satellites are combined. Each adds different levels of resolution and area covered to give a big picture.

In the area of air quality there are significant improvements in the data sets available. This includes improvements in the resolution and repeat period (numbers quoted were moving from a resolution of 20 km squares to 7 km squares and a repeat frequency from once a day to hourly). The speed at which data can be released for analysis is also improving – down to three hours in one example quoted.

We also heard of studies

  • looking at the reusability of applications in an effort to improve uptake. A project which proactively looks (looked?) at applications in use or development and considered other uses of the output within government departments.
  • The development of a “digital twin” for infrastructure aiming to optimise maintenance and replacement programmes by improving the knowledge of the state of infrastructure and the loads on it.
  • The use of satellite data and communications to help monitor the conditions of the NDA’s estate which is widely distributed and in some relatively inaccessible locations.
  • A team dedicated to forming a bridge between the developers and potential users by being aware of developments and capabilities and trawling government departments seeking potential uses. Experience from this is that end users generally don’t always want to see complex maps or charts but want an answer to a question. The knack is to enable the providers to provide a service while insulating the end user from the technology and jargon.
RS&KIP
Keith Pearce (Katmal Limited) and Rick Short (NDA) at the SSGP workshop

It is worth noting that the software being developed is developed with the future in mind. The developers know that there will be more data and more varied data in the future. Some of this they can predict. Some of it, particularly further out in time, they can only guess at.

There was a session on the use of satellite data in an emergency and in the recovery stages. Data can show the near-current situation over a wide area and can show how it has changed since before the emergency. It can also enable secure digital communications with minimal and resilient ground equipment – although questions were asked about band width which can be an issued with multiple units in a small area.

There is a nice summary of the state of play of Environmental Earth Observation in the Houses of Parliament PostNote 566.

It seems clear that the use of satellite data has the potential to transform many services but is currently being hampered by a development and adoption barrier. The great strength of satellites is their wide area coverage and repeat rate. The weakness is that the information has to be extracted from vast amounts of digital data and, at least in the development phase, compared to ground truth surveys. The strength will go on growing as more satellites and more modern satellites provide ever more data. The weakness will diminish as experience increases; more applications will be developed and computers will become more capable of sifting the data and illuminating the interesting bits. Importantly, once an application works in, say, Hampshire it can be applied, with virtually no additional cost, in the Highlands of Scotland or, indeed, anywhere in the world. There is a great deal to be gained from getting over the development and adoption barrier, both for the functions of UK government and for future exports or foreign aid in kind. The Space for Smarter Government Programme is of great value and well worth support.SSPG

© Katmal Limited

Emergency Planning Society – Ripples workshop

I attended the Emergency Planning Society’s Human Aspects Group’s workshop entitled “The Ripple Effects of Major Incidents” in Cardiff on 16th November 2017. The speakers were people with first-hand experience of responding to support those affected by major incidents or of being caught up in them themselves.

This workshop was about the people affected by an event and the practical and emotional support they may need at the time of the incident and afterwards. They may need help coming to terms with their experiences and with their losses. This is a process that could take many years.

This was unusual territory for me. I used to be a responder at site or company strategic level in the nuclear industry where, in exercises, the news that a Reception Centre had been set up was a satisfying tick in a box that required no further thought. To be fair to us we had other things to keep us busy.

Why “Ripples”?

It is easy to underestimate the number of people affected in an incident. For example, in a terrorist event, there are the injured that need immediate care and some who will need continuing support to cope with “life changing injuries” – a highly sanitised term for some dreadful outcomes.

Beyond the physically injured are the witnesses. Those who experience things that most of us never will; traumatic things that can lead to severe mental scars that affect every aspect of life. People who, because of their experiences, are too scared to walk along the High Street or be in a public space. People who suffer repeated flash-backs and who feel survivor-guilt. People who can’t sleep well. These are life defining phobias and conditions. Children cannot access education, adults cannot cope in the workplace. This can result in a downward spiral of increasing anger, dependency and/or despair.

There are the families of the dead, families of the injured and families of the traumatised. All have their lives changed for the worst and have to come to terms with those changes.

There are people who narrowly avoided being a direct victim. People how didn’t catch that train for a trivial reason, people who didn’t go to that concert, people who live in the next tower block along (or indeed a tower block in a distant town or city).

There are the people who responded to the incident; professionals such as the police and medical personnel, but also the bystanders who come forward to give spontaneous help. Some of these will need emotional support to help them process their experiences.

There are the people who have lost their homes or their livelihoods, either permanently or temporarily, as a result of the event and need timely practical support.

Experiences of response

Some of the speakers reported their experience of responding in the first hours and days after serious incidents and explained the role of the Families Liaison Officer and charities.

In one event an apparent lack of coordination and leadership resulted in badly designed and managed survivor and community support which quickly resulted in anger and recrimination. Later improvements in the responders’ performance improved matters but, by then, a lot of damage had been done to the relationship between the community and the authorities.

Another report of a different response was more positive. A difficult situation requiring a lot of rapid decisions, some of which stood the test of time whereas some didn’t. A lot of learning already revealed and more to come as the analysis progresses. Interestingly and encouragingly the speaker described their recovery plan as being based on the national guidance and broadly successful.

A stitch in time saves nine

A few themes emerged from the presentations and discussion.

The support on the ground for those immediately affected needs appropriate design and competent management. In the first few hours the care needed will be largely medical for a number of people and the immediate needs of comfort, shelter and sustenance for maybe more people.

Within hours to days those affected may need wider support. They may be separated from their cash, credit cards and their travel season tickets. Without immediate help they risk an escalation of consequence – jobs, or at least earnings, lost as they can’t get to work. Education disrupted for children who can’t get to school.

Loss of other documents, such as passports and identification, can quickly become a problem for some and, without the correct support and advice, they may struggle to hold their own.

Businesses may be suffering, particularly if they are based inside police cordons.

These problems can be solved. We heard from Victim Support and from the British Red Cross on the services they offer and their experiences with things that went well and things that took longer to get right. It is possible to mobilise quickly. There are individuals and organisations with experience in supporting affected communities. Each time they are called upon they can be expected to get better, if the conditions on the ground, resources and coordination allow.

A number of big questions were posed:

  • How do you identify the needs of those affected and break through established procedures and budgets to provide help in a timely manner?
  • What do you do if a Category 1 responder is failing to cope? (or indeed any component of the response?)
  • What do you do with gifts in kind (which can be in overwhelming quantities and of a wide range of suitability)?
  • How do you coordinate and get the best out of spontaneous volunteers?
  • How do you manage social media in a positive way?

Learning points:

  • Social media is both a blessing and a curse. We heard of social media platforms being set up by individuals or organisations that attempted to help those affected but which attracted advertisements from the likes of Funeral Directors and Claims Lawyers, abusive messages or were used by journalists as source material for unauthorised articles. But we also heard of the real value of enclosed systems that could be set up on platforms such as Yammer and had a debate about who should manage them for the years that they might be needed – currently the police manage some.
  • Mobile phones allow families and friends to reunite without support. This does mean that the facilities set up to help reunite families see a higher proportion of bad news to good compared to the expectations of some years ago.
  • Nurses trained in the SWAN end of life care techniques and the police Family Liaison Officers can provide emotional and practical support for the bereaved.
  • It takes planning, experience and considerable resources and skill to set up the ideal range of support facilities for those affected in different ways by an event. Getting it wrong can quickly lead to worsening experiences, anger and lasting harm for individuals and communities.
  • The media can intrude upon facilities for survivors and family and friends. They should be controlled but helped to get appropriate material for their needs.
  • It is important to gather and understand data on the types of people affected and their needs as these change with time and there are humanitarian and reputational drivers to keep the gap between needs/expectations and delivery small.
  • Mutual support groups within those affected can be very useful to some people trying to cope in the aftermath of trauma. The ability to discuss matters such as poor sleep, anxiety, and availability of therapy with similarly affected people can be very positive.
  • People displaced from their homes and temporarily settled elsewhere benefitted from a single facility where they could access a range of help (CAB, Banks, Social Services etc.) but also greatly benefited from the opportunity to meet and chat with their neighbours (photos of sofas and coffee tables in the middle of a Sports Hall).
  • It is important to try to work with social media rather than against it – In Manchester there was a social media campaign for a vigil in support of the victims and defiance of the perpetrators. Enabling this, and supporting other such moves, was seen to be very positive.
  • Support may be required for many years after the event and includes, in addition to individual support, such things as organising ceremonies on key anniversaries and organising permanent memorials, both of which require careful attention to the wishes of those affected – which may not all be the same.
  • Donations in kind and in cash can be overwhelming, can take considerable resources to manage and can lead to incriminations and anger if not done to everyone’s satisfaction.
  • There is a need for some kind of Advocacy Service for the survivors of terrorism to ensure that they get the support they require. This includes practical help to cope with physical injuries, help with the mental injuries, financial support and help to build a life and access education and work that takes survivors’ trauma into account. (In an ideal world this would not be needed because the background social support should be managing).

Closing remarks

There were two very moving first-hand reports from survivors of terrorists’ attacks. Both exhibited anger at the inadequacies of support they have been offered in the UK, which compares badly to some other countries, and which clearly let them both down badly.

Something is broken. Survivors are not getting the support they need. It is clearly of concern to the emergency planning community and we should not think that our job is done when the final police cordon is removed. We have some level of responsibility to ensure that those caught up in an emergency are cared for in an appropriate manner.

Dealing with urgent and continuing medical needs is the remit of the emergency services and National Health Service although organisations such as CitizenAid have identified a role for prepared bystanders. The setting up and managing facilities to cope with the practical needs of those affected within the first hours and days of the event is quite clearly, I think, part of an emergency response and within the remit of emergency planning. Guidance is clear about responsibilities.

However, it could be argued that the longer term care of people with severe physical injury, with psychological harm and permanently displaced from their homes is not within the emergency planning and response remit. The UK should be doing better in these areas but our role in making it happen is, as an organisation, probably limited to raising concerns with the authorities and, as individuals, calling to account those in authority and those with responsibility in these areas – if we could only identify them.

A few of the attendees were from Social Care and Health roles in local government. It is a pity that there was no senior representative from central government or from the mental health world as defining and solving the problem is probably beyond our pay grades and their views would have been valuable.

© Keith Pearce, 20/11/2017

K.I.Pearce asserts his right to be recognised as the author of this document.

A restatement of the natural science evidence base concerning the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation.

This paper has the stated aim of restating the evidence available on the health effects of low level ionizing radiation. It reports that it is known that high levels of radiation are detrimental to the health of organisms including humans but that it is less clear at low levels (low doses or doses delivered at a low rate) with some arguing that current radiological protection standards are too lax and others arguing that they are too severe.

The authors penned a draft review of the data which they discussed at a one day workshop. Here they classified the data sets according to their view of the strength and consistency of the evidence presented. The review was revised and then circulated to a wider circle of experts in the low level radiation field for comment and further revision.

I particularly like figure 2 of the paper (available as a download) which shows a number of datasets of measured effect against dose. It is clear that there is a trend for effect to increase with dose but much less clear that this trend is well behaved at low levels. This figure and the paper summarises the issue nicely. What is happening at low dose and low dose rates?

ResmodelThe diagram shown is figure 3 from the paper. It shows a number of different potential risk models that can be compared to the data. These include the linear no threshold model (LNT), which postulates a straight line through the origin and the linear with threshold, which postulates that there is a level of dose below which no harm is experienced. The former is used by ICRP and a number of other international authorities as a plausible and conservative assumption. The threshold argument also has its proponents who believe that LNT leads to excessive spend on pointless dose avoidance.

Hormesis is an interesting one. It is based on the suggestion that small amounts of radiation can be good for you.

The caption to the diagram states that “at sufficiently low doses, all models are consistent with available datasets”.

The paper provides a brief discussion of a number of studies:

  • Variations in natural background in different places across the world;
  • Acute high level exposures;
  • Low level exposures;
  • The Japanese life span study (recognised as the “gold standard” for learning);
  • Chernobyl workers and exposed members of the public;
  • Fukushima;
  • Workers;
  • Medical exposures;
  • In-vitro studies.

It provides a number of interesting headlines for each category but, deliberately refuses to come to any conclusion.

This is a useful and interesting paper resulting from some careful and systematic work. I am grateful to the authors for producing it and I recommend it as a good read.

Reference: McLean AR et al. 2017. A restatement of the natural science evidence base concerning the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation. Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20171070. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.1070

The First Three Years of Katmal Limited

LogoOver the three years since I started to work independently I have had some interesting and challenging work and certainly had a good variety. I’ve spent a lot of time on my computer at home revising, updating and restructuring existing documents for customers or writing new ones on a wide range of topics including the application of new technology to emergency response, reviewing and summarising regulation and guidance, proposing new strategies and proposing systems for classifying emergency structures, systems and components. I’ve also done some mathematical modelling in support of ALARP cases for new facilities. The documents I’ve helped to prepare have gone for internal information/discussion, to regulators, to safety committees and to public web-sites.

I’ve sat in client’s basements extracting information from their IT. I’ve worked in clients offices alongside their full time team consulting with their internal responders and writing and managing training exercises. I’ve travelled the length of England and Scotland supporting and documenting workshops with local authorities, emergency responders, government departments and regulators. I’ve attended meetings with regulators, helping customers move projects forward.

I’ve also spent a lot of time keeping up to date with developments around the world and maintaining a Facebook page and a blog about the things that interest me.

I’ve published a book aimed at telling members of the public a bit more than can be fitted into the REPPIR leaflets about what they might be asked to do to protect themselves during a nuclear accident (Shelter, evacuation, stable iodine and food restrictions) and why these work. This is available as a paperback and as a Kindle file. The trickle of sales (approaching 40!) is fun to watch but is not enough to keep my family in comfort. I’ve been considering further books but have not had the discipline to complete a second one yet. I’ve satisfied my ambition to publish a book if not my ambition to publish a bestselling and useful book.

In UK nuclear emergency planning the big concern at the moment seems to me to be the forthcoming revision of REPPIR. The EU BSSD come out in 2013. The Consultation came out a few weeks ago. The regulations are due next year. There are no signs of draft regulations. That timing does not bode well. The consultation document is unclear on many aspects of the new regulations. My developing thoughts on the Consultation are collected in a blog. You are welcome to join the discussion there.

If I were a local authority I would be concerned about the onus to determine the appropriate scope of the plan possibly being placed on my organisation albeit in consultation with others (paragraph 84).

There is a lack of clarity about scoping emergency schemes particularly with regard severe accidents and its application to sites below the REPPIR threshold. Talk of assuming 100% release is surprising to say the least (Table 4).

As a Health Physics professional I’m surprised and disappointed that, even with the resources of a government department, the authors of the consultation cannot clearly articulate what a Constraint or Reference Level is nor give confidence that these terms will be correctly applied in the new regulation (see paragraph 45 for a poor explanation of a Reference Level).

I’m looking forward to getting myself up to speed with the new regulations and will be available to help local authorities, operators, regulators and government departments understand and apply them.

I hope that in the future I will continue to find varied projects to work on across the industry but the life of an independent contractor is a precarious one so this is far from certain. More work welcome, contact keith.pearce@katmal.co.uk.

 

Customer graphic
Some of Katmal Limit’s customers