DEPZ Determinations under REPPIR-19

I am interested to see what impact on DEPZs we see following the introduction of REPPIR-19 and the bizarre way they are now set. With REPPIR-01 the size and shape of the DEPZ was in the gift of the ONR who had a cumbersome process covering technical, practical and strategic issues (see here). They had detailed discussions with the operator about the site’s safety case and the potential for accident. In this discussion both sides fielded teams of experts, well versed in safety cases and nuclear emergency plans. These discussions could take years.

In REPPIR-19 the safety case still exists and is still discussed at great length between the teams of experts within the operator and ONR organisation. This is a never ending cycle of review and revision.

Under regulation 4 of REPPIR the operator “must make a written evaluation before any work with ionising radiation is carried out for the first time at those premises” (a later clause includes continuing work) and must be “sufficient to identify all hazards arising from the work which have the potential to cause a radiation emergency”. The operator must provide “details of the evaluation” to the ONR. We start to move away from the safety case. Intriguingly this regulation does not require the ONR to bless the work but we can safely assume that if they think it substandard they will require a discussion and a revision. Can’t we?

Under regulation 5 the operator must make an assessment to consider and evaluate a full range of possible consequences of the identified radiation emergencies. This also goes to the ONR but, again, no blessing is mentioned in the regulation.

Regulation 7 requires that the operator produce a consequence report and send it to the local authority. This report is not even a précis of the large body of work that has gone on before. It tells the local authority where the site is, recommends a minimum size for the DEPZ, and discusses which protective actions may be required promptly and how far downwind they should go. This is a very brief document.

Regulation 11 then requires the local authority to consult with a range of organisations and set a DEPZ. What seems to be happening is a local authority officer writes a paper for the council setting out the options (in some cases that might be “this is the proposed DEPZ accept or reject?”). This is discussed at a meeting at which it may not be the only matter to discuss and either rejected or accepted. Did I mention that the local authorities were given a matter of weeks between receiving the consequence reports and having to set the DEPZ by law?

So setting the size of the DEPZ has gone from being in the remit of the national regulator, with teams of experts and able to take their time and apply the same policy uniformly across the UK, to a rushed decision by local authorities who are reassured in the guidance that they don’t need to understand the technical background to the subject. That will work.

I’ll keep track of DEPZ determinations at http://www.katmal.co.uk/reppir2019progress.html .

Author: Keith Pearce

Emergency Planning and Health Physics consultant and author

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