HERCA-WENRA Approach to cross border cooperation in the event of a nuclear accident

The Association of the Heads of the European Radiological protection Competent Authorities (HERCA) and Western European Nuclear Regulators’ Association (WENRA) have jointly considered cross border cooperation in the early stages of a nuclear accident. They propose a mechanism based on shared technical understanding, coordination and mutual trust.

A workshop is reported (here) which was attended by representatives from ONR and PHE CRCE. It is not known to what extent the UK participants agreed with the published conclusions of the workshop.


The aim of the project is to ensure that when an accident affects neighbouring countries the countermeasures recommended in each country are comparable as described in the figure above (taken from HERCA WENRA document). It was reported that some countries have clear guidance on how to set countermeasures that might make this harmonisation more difficult.

The report suggests that (Conservative) evaluation of the potential hazard area favours a common understanding and coherent communication internationally and helps to give early assurance to populations outside this area. It does not seem to have considered that an excessively large countermeasure zone would hamper the ability to focus resources on those in most need of support and may unduly inconvenience and worry people within the zones but relatively safe from the radiation hazard. This seems to go against the ICRP principle of justification that “any decision that alters the radiation exposure situation should do more good than harm” (ICRP 103, page 88).

The report states that “HERCA and WENRA consider that in Europe:

  • evacuation should be prepared up to 5 km around nuclear power plants, and sheltering and ITB up to 20 km;
  • a general strategy should be defined in order to be able to extend evacuation up to 20 km, and sheltering and ITB up to 100 km;
  • nuclear and radiation safety authorities in Europe should continue attempts to promote compatible response arrangements and protection strategies amongst the European countries”.


 It later explains that the 5 km evacuation and 20 km sheltering and taking of stable iodine prophylaxis is a precautionary approach for situations where core melt is judged possible. It also states (Section 8.2) that shelter is preferred to evacuation if the evacuation cannot be completed before the release starts.

The wider zones are stated to be appropriate where, in addition to core melt, the containment integrity is lost.

Since sheltering cannot be implemented for a very long duration, the report proposes that it should be prepared immediately but only implemented a few hours before the time of release. The report does not develop the discussion of the implications of a warning time. It would give an opportunity for people to collect stable iodine tablets from a local distribution point and to prepare for shelter but would also possibly trigger an uncontrolled evacuation and panic buying of food and bottled water. Great care should be taken when considering recommending shelter “once the release starts”.


The harmonisation of countermeasure advice across national borders in the event of a transnational release of radioactivity is clearly desirable. This can best be achieved with shared technical understanding, coordination and mutual trust but also requires the same decision making process when facing with an uncertain radiological situation and limited time to make and implement decisions. The approach of pre-agreeing on the largest area based on generic conservative decision making runs the risk of applying disproportionate countermeasures on the day and saddling society with disproportionate emergency preparation costs. A link to the site’s safety case seems much more appropriate.

It is not clear where this grouping’s remit for advising countermeasure distances comes from, the basis for their distances is unexplained as is how they relate to EURATOM and IAEA. So while their thoughts on cross-border cooperation and information exchange are valued, their thoughts on countermeasure distances do not seem to add value to the discussion.

“What Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow” – Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is a very interesting bit of legislation.  It requires the impact of a wide range of decisions on the wellbeing of future generations to be assessed and to be taken into account in the decision making process. Of course this should not be required in an ideal world but what a great idea to manage the real world!

As is says on the Welsh Government website

The Act will make the public bodies listed in the Act think more about the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach.

This new law will mean that, for the first time, public bodies listed in the Act must do what they do in a sustainable way.

Public bodies need to make sure that when making their decisions they take into account the impact they could have on people living their lives in Wales in the future.

It will expect them to:

  • work together better
  • involve people reflecting the diversity of our communities
  • look to the long term as well as focusing on now
  • take action to try and stop problems getting worse – or even stop them happening in the first place.

Nanny state or one to follow? Certainly one to watch with interest.

Title quote from http://gov.wales/newsroom/environmentandcountryside/2015/150429-future-generations-act/?lang=en

UN Sustainable Development Goal 11

If you follow the “Resilient City” theme on the internet you often come across the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11 which is to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

The text states that more than half of the world population live in cities and that the fraction is expected to rise. However, this urban population growth is often outstripping the rate of development of the cities resulting in slum conditions, often overflowing the formal administrative boundaries of the cities.

As the size of cities increases the per-capita carbon dioxide emissions increase, the difficultly of removing solid wastes increases while air quality tends to reduce.

Against Goal 11 the UN has a number of targets that aim to improve the conditions for the urban poor with adequate housing and public transport, inclusion, reduced impact of natural disasters – particularly on the urban poor, improved city environments with public open spaces and improved urban planning.

These goals are all very laudable and, with a completion date of 2030 placed on many of them, very challenging.

This is important work. Vital for the future of humanity. But less relevant to the resilient cities theme in the developed world and temperate climate.


Lancet Series on Urban Design, Transport and Public Health

Famouth6The Lancet urban design, transport and health Series, http://www.thelancet.com/series/urban-design is a series of papers discussing how the expected enlargement of cities should be managed to enable healthy communities. Mainly aimed at growing mega-cities the papers provide some useful background for the Resilient City theme being pursued by several organisations.

The three papers in the series are:

(1)        City planning and population health: a global challenge,

(2)        Land use, transport, and population health: estimating the health benefits of compact cities

(3)        Use of science to guide city planning policy and practice: how to achieve healthy and sustainable future cities

These three papers explore the thesis that land-use and transport policies contribute to worldwide epidemics of injuries and non-communicable diseases through traffic exposure, noise, air pollution, social isolation, low physical activity, and sedentary behaviours. They argue that designing and building “compact cities” with good public transport where a higher fraction of journeys are by foot, on bicycle or on low-pollution public transport would result in a healthier population suffering less traffic trauma, less ill-health effects of sedentary lifestyles and less ill-health effects of poor air quality. There also believe that “compact cities” could optimise socialisation leading to happier as well as healthier cities.

The first paper identifies 3 regional and 5 local policies and practices which, they claim, can affect a wide range of health outcomes including non-communicable diseases such as obesity. These measures include:

  • “Destination accessibility” which aims to have people’s place of work, shopping facilities and leisure facilities either within walking or cycling distance of home or linked by good public transport;
  • “Demand Management” which makes the use of the private car harder by rationing parking spaces in the centres;
  • “Urban design” which separates cars from pedestrians and cyclists, provides public open spaces near to housing and has transport hubs and schools within a 15 minute walk of homes.
  • Public transport – bus stops within 400m and rail links within 800m of homes;
  • Diversity – different density housing near to and on top of shops and services;
  • Desirability – Neighbourhoods designed to be safe, attractive, and accessible; public transport that is convenient, affordable, frequent, safe, and comfortable.

It has a clever graphic on page 2915 (link here) showing how 8 urban system policies can be used to enhance liveability, health, wellbeing, and quality of life; social, health, and environmental equity and quality.

A number of indicators are suggested. These can be used to determine a city’s performance in these areas. Indicators include the extent of regulation, percentage of population living within a given range of public transport, percentage of people who can get to work within a given time without using their own car, percentage of green or open space within the city and measures of health of community members in terms of the prevalence of such things as respiratory illnesses and obesity.

The second paper speculates about the health benefits of a compact city by considering a number of cities around the world and modelling the impact of changes to the density and layout that reduce the number of car miles and increases walking, cycling and public transport usage. They argue that the sprawling residential only suburbs that are common in the USA, Australia and New Zealand mitigate against public transport and walking or cycling.

Data analysis and modelling was used to try to understand the relationship between the layout and distances involved in cities and the modes of transport used and then to try understand the impact on the environment and on health of those modes of transport. I was struck by the data presented in Table 1 which seems to show that walking and cycling in Boston is much safer than the same activities in London (based on deaths and injuries per 100 million kilometres). The paper presents tables of the changes in distances travelled by each mode of transport (Table 3) and of the health implications of this (Table 4) for an arbitrary change in urban density (+30%), land use diversity (+30%) and distance to public transport (-30%).

The third paper discusses how the research can be used to influence decision makers. It makes the point that research results are often expressed in ways that are inaccessible to decision makers and that research is only one of many determinants of policy. It suggests that better use of research findings would result from the adoption of a four step process: Undertake policy-relevant research, use research methods that policy makers understand and value, actively disseminate findings to policy makers and engage in advocacy. It suggests that teaming with policy makers at all stages is a good idea. It gives several examples of organisations that have adopted this form of conscious “research translation” to good effect in areas relating urban planning to health outcomes.

Locals accept capping of contaminated ground

There is an interesting story in the USA media (http://triblive.com/local/valleynewsdispatch/11552998-74/dep-site-contamination) which tells us that a community in Pennsylvania has accepted the capping of land contaminated with Radium rather than a complete decontamination. The UK industry and regulators should research the public consultation process that led to this seemingly sensible decision and see if lessons can be learned for our decommissioning efforts.

This is related to the consultation on decommissioning discussed earlier.


Nuclear Skills Strategy Plan

Found at: http://www.cogentskills.com/media/76258/national-nuclear-skills-strategic-plan.pdf

This document, issued this month (December 2016), shows that a large number of skilled people will be needed if the diverse programme of build (three different designs of LWR, site decommissioning and the naval programme) is to go ahead as planned. It shows a predicted demand of 9000 new skilled workers a year against an expected performance of less than half that.

The document describes policies, risks, actions and benefits of a national plan to manage this situation and ensure that there is a supply of trained people to match the demand.

I’m disappointed not to see “steadily increasing the British contribution to the nuclear projects” included as an aspiration, policy and outcome. If we expect to be building, operating and decommissioning nuclear facilities for the next generation and exporting the skills we should be trying to increase our percentage of the work, particularly the highly skilled work.

It is also not clear the extent to which skills will be defined. I think that it would be useful to have recognised broad and generic skills for people planning to enter the industry but leave flexibility for the final on-the-job training to match them to actual roles. Too much detail and you’ll have trainees taking time and resources to gain a series of skills they will not use at work – it becomes a tick-box exercise moderated by people with a vested interest in utilising their training resources rather than by employers with a job to do.