This site has recently moved to a new hosting service in the UK. Some login information may have been lost and some pictures may be missing. Sorry
I’ve switched on registration so join me if you wish.
This site has recently moved to a new hosting service in the UK. Some login information may have been lost and some pictures may be missing. Sorry
I’ve switched on registration so join me if you wish.
My latest book, an attempt to explain the Chernobyl accident to people who know a bit about physics but not a lot, placing it between the many accounts that have concentrated on the human story and some very technical reports, is now available on amazon after a professional work over by Art Works who have greatly improved the layout and type setting.
Find it at https://amzn.to/33lHN6w
Since everybody seems to be writing about Covid-19 I thought I should as well. Update. There is now a cacophony of Covid-19 writing. I'm not even going to try to stay up to date, let alone write anything more.
COVID-19 is the illness seen in people infected with a new strain of coronavirus not previously seen in humans. On 31st December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, which was later classified as a new disease: COVID-19. Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, shortness of breath.
On 30th January 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
COVID-19 is now classified as an airborne high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.
Printed situation reports (worldwide – WHO) are available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports
The world situation can be monitored at https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd
UK Government latest information and advice is available from: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
The numbers of confirmed cases in the UK is going to be published daily at 2pm each day on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public#number-of-cases
The table above is from 6/3/20
The Government also maintain a site giving updates on Covid-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-background-information/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-epidemiology-virology-and-clinical-features
On 30/1/2020 the government raised the UK risk level from low to moderate. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-from-the-four-uk-chief-medical-officers-on-novel-coronavirus
It is not yet clear how this virus will spread and the impact it will have. However, as of 4th March 2020 it is spreading widely across the world and there appears to be an exponentially increasing number of cases in the UK. Business have been advised to plan for 20% absenteeism at the peak.
The government summary of what is known about the virus may be a bit out of date – this is a fast moving event. It does say that “Although evidence is still emerging, information to date indicates human-to-human transmission is occurring. Hence, precautions to prevent human-to-human transmission are appropriate for both suspected and confirmed cases” and “We do not know the routes of transmission of COVID-19; however, other coronaviruses are mainly transmitted by large respiratory droplets and direct or indirect contact with infected secretions. In addition to respiratory secretions, other coronaviruses have been detected in blood, faeces and urine.”
“Fever, cough or chest tightness, and dyspnoea are the main symptoms reported. While most patients have a mild illness, severe cases are also being reported, some of whom require intensive care.”
When you have dyspnea, you might feel:
As of 3 March, a total of 13,911 people have been tested in the UK, of which 13,860 were confirmed negative. 51 were confirmed as positive (up to 85 on the 4th March).
We might expect the number of cases to rise rapidly over a period and then start to drop. The peak intensity and the duration of the disruption is hard to predict. The “social distancing” strategy is intended to reduce the height of the peak but at the expense of increasing the duration. There is a distinct possibility of repeat outbreaks in subsequent years, although these days we can hope that a vaccine will be developed. Each wave can have different inflection rates and different fatality rates. The figure below shows the 3 different waves of illness in the USA during the 1918 flu pandemic.
Figure ref < here>
Every government department to have a designated ministerial virus lead to help oversee government response to the global threat of COVID-19
Cross-government ‘war room’ of communications experts and scientists also set up ahead of public information blitz in coming weeks
Further COBRs planned this week, with ministerial COBR meetings upgraded to be held more frequently, if required.
The overall phases of the Government plan to respond to COVID-19 are:
These phase may have run its course with an increasing number of cases confirmed in the UK. (At this stage care is needed when interpreting the rise in confirmed cases. It may be more representative of the rise in testing rather the rise in cases).
The delay phase of the response will probably be based on public information campaigns urging hygiene, social distancing and recognition of symptoms. The intention is a lower the peak incident rate but probably at the cost of prolonging the course of the epidemic.
The government concern about planning for this stage is that the proposed actions have a social impact (and an economic one).
The company would probably prefer a longer duration, relatively shallow event rather than a shorter, sharper one that compromises site safety by having too many people off at once. At company efforts should focus on delay, at least initially.
For an operational site or company the mitigate stage is about maintaining site safety at all times and remaining fleet of foot to achieve what production is possible.
For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for COVID19 are awaited. In particular, there is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point. Most possible cases [currently] turn out to be negative. Therefore, until the outcome of test results is known there is no action that the workplace needs to take. (COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses).
The Company should consider implementing a policy of “social distancing” and added cleaning.
If it is confirmed that a carrier has been on site the PHE will carry out a risk assessment and give advice to the management (We can imagine that this will only continue to happen if the number of cases remains low).
The self-isolation advice given by NHS-UK is https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
This means you should:
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
Home isolation advice can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869149/PHE_Guidance_Advice_sheet_for_home_isolation_English.pdf and for sharing a house with someone in home isolation at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869261/PHE_Advice_sheet_for_people_who_live_in_the_same_accommodation_as_the_patient_English.pdf
By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. (A) Any company should agree and promulgate its policy for sick pay if the virus hits.
Employees may be advised to isolate themselves and not to work in contact with other people by NHS 111 or PHE if they are a carrier of, or have been in contact with, an infectious or contagious disease, such as COVID-19. (A) Again any company needs clear guidance on behaviour and pay under these circumstances.
Coronavirus symptoms are similar to a flu-like illness and include cough, fever, or shortness of breath. Once symptomatic, all surfaces that the person has come into contact with must be cleaned including:
Public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors) but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected.
If a person becomes ill in a shared space, these should be cleaned using disposable cloths and household detergents, according to current recommended workplace legislation and practice.
Guidance to the cleaners about personnel protective equipment (water proof gloves) and cleaning chemicals to use when cleaning potentially contaminated areas should be clear and transparent. (A) Write and promulgate enhanced cleaning regime for shared areas and for areas that might be infected.
All waste that has been in contact with the individual, including used tissues, and masks if used, should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full. The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied. It should be put in a safe place and marked for storage until the result is available. If the individual tests negative, this can be put in the normal waste.
Should the individual test positive, you will be instructed what to do with the waste.
This section based on WHO advice https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors, for example:
Under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 72 hours.
Once similar viruses are transferred to hands, they survive for very short lengths of time. Regular cleaning of frequently touched hard surfaces and hands will, therefore, help to reduce the risk of infection.
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Despite a further review of all the available evidence up to 30 November 2012 there is still limited evidence to suggest that use of face masks and/or respirators in health care setting can provide significant protection against infection with influenza when in close contact with infected patients. The effectiveness of masks and respirators is likely to be linked to consistent, correct usage and compliance; this remains a major challenge – both in the context of a formal study and in everyday practice. (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/316198/Masks_and_Respirators_Science_Review.pdf
Employees are not recommended to wear facemasks (also known as surgical masks or respirators) to protect against the virus. Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by symptomatic individuals (advised by a healthcare worker) to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people. (COVID-19: guidance for employers and business
There is an awful lot of material being published about Covid-19 at the moment. I’m helping a nuclear operator get in the best shape they can with their preparations and I’m finding a near full time job to read the literature each day.
I’m pleased to have another article published in Nuclear Engineering International. This one is about EdF’s excellent in-van gamma spectroscopy system which will improve the speed and accuracy of off-site dose estimates if there is ever an off-site release.
Katmal Limited is very pleased to be helping a nuclear operator fulfil their duties under REPPIR 2019.
UK National Radon Action Plan, PHE-CRCE-043 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-national-radon-action-plan
`The abstract to this document claims that “This report presents in a single document, the elements that make up the national radon strategy and the national radon action plan. It fulfils relevant requirements in the 2013 European Union Basic Safety Standards Directive on protection against ionising radiation (EURATOM, 2013).” I think that this statement admits the thought that occurred to me as I read the document for the first time; although labelled as the UK National Radon Action Plan it is not really a plan or a strategy, instead it is a comprehensive description of the work being undertaken in the UK to understand the extent of exposure to Radon, to identify where action should be taken to reduce Radon dose, and to take such steps and monitor their effectiveness.
The section labelled “UK radon strategy” talks about the UK strategy in the third person. It is not a strategy itself but describes a strategy that is off-stage. Where the document states that the UK strategy meets the requirements of the BSS it is really making the credible claim that the UK is already doing what it would have decided to do had it started with a blank sheet of paper and written a strategy in line with the guidance. Essentially the UK had a comprehensive Radon programme before the need was fully articulated in the BSS.
Radon appears in the BSS in a number of places (Article 54 Radon in the workplace, Article 74 Indoor exposure to Radon, Article 103 Radon Action Plan). The BSS requires that there is a national plan to address the long- term risks from radon exposure recognising that the combination of smoking and high radon exposure presents a substantially higher individual lung cancer risk than either factor individually and that smoking amplifies the risk from radon exposure at the population level.
The Ionising Radiation (Basic Safety Standards) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2018 which came into force on 8th May 2018 require the Secretary of State to set a reference level for public exposure to radon. The reference level for the annual average radon activity concentration in air must not exceed 300 becquerel per cubic metre (regulation 8) in line with BSS Article 74. The BSS calls for a “basis for the establishment of reference levels”. The basis of the UK limits is not clear to me but there is probably a justification somewhere.
Further regulation is found in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The SoS is also required to publish information about the hazards of indoor radiation, its measurement and ways of reducing it (Regulation 9). This is satisfied, at least in part, by the website at https://www.ukradon.org/.
There must be a national plan address long term health risks from radon ingress to dwellings, workplaces and buildings with public access (Regulation 10). This must be updated at intervals of no more than five years.
Annex 18 of the EU BSS gives a list of 14 things to consider when setting up a national radon plan. The use of this list is mandated by the 2018 regulations. While I don’t think that the UK is missing anything important with the current approach it is not entirely obvious where each of these topics are covered.
Public Health England have a group focused on the radon issue and they provide leadership within the UK. This document was written by the PHE group along with several other government departments covering the UK and the devolved administrations.
The UK has maps are that identify radon Affected Areas, which are defined as where at least 1% of homes are expected to be above the radon Action Level (200 Bq m-3). These can be found at https://www.ukradon.org/. This shows that my home in Gloucestershire has a “maximum radon potential of less than 1% (in the clear) but with the surrounding area going up to 3 – 5%. Since these values are “indicative” I’m maybe not entirely in the clear. This clearly shows that the need for an “approach, data and criteria for the delineation of areas” is satisfied. It is less clear that a risk assessment has been used to systematically identify the types of buildings that should be surveyed although the UK has a long standing survey programme.
The Forward plan for action on radon states that established UK infrastructure and provisions will be “maintained and supported” but not who will do this and who they will be answerable to which you may expect to find in a strategy. The New topics for consideration” explicitly mentions the annex of the EU BSS and picks up some of the missing elements and promises that they will be given attention and places actions, but not a time frame, on Public Health England.
Maybe next time the PHE will publish a document that looks more like a strategy. In the meantime keep up the good work.
EURATOM (2013). Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM of 5 December 2013 laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, Official Journal of the European Union L13/1.
Ionising Radiation (Basic Safety Standards) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2018 (which came into force on 8th May 2018)
The Ionising Radiation (Basic Safety Standards) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2018 [Ref. 1] came into force on the 8th May.
Regulation 4 is concerned with “land [that] is contaminated as a result of the after-effects of an emergency, past practice or past work activity and the level of exposure of members of the public to ionising radiation cannot be disregarded from a radiation protection point of view”.
This is a very important aspect of emergency planning as learning how to live with the increased levels of environmental contamination that would follow from a significant accidental release of radioactivity is vital to the recovery and well-being of the local community.
The regulation requires that an appropriate minister sets a reference level for the land.
The definition of “reference” level is now different in three important documents:
It would be interesting to understand why those who framed the regulation felt that their definition was better than either the ICRP’s or EU BSS’s. What do the regulations mean by “prioritised”? Does it mean that the UK cannot budget any money for the schools, NHS, social care or road maintenance until the clean-up costs have been covered?
Paragraph 4 requires the appropriate minister to ensure that “appropriate arrangements are established for the on-going control of exposure of members of the public to ionising radiation, with the aim of establishing living conditions that can be considered as normal, including—
(a) the establishment of an infrastructure to support continuing self-help protective measures in the affected area, which may include the provision of information, advice and monitoring;
(b) remediation measures; and
(c) the delineation of the area.”
This must be in place “before the resumption of habitation, or economic or social activities, on the land”. We need to be careful that this does not lead to people being kept away from their homes and offices for longer than is necessary as this is known to add to the social and economic stresses of the situation. We also need to avoid hasty decisions about reference levels and area delineation and, in fact, these are likely to be very fluid in the days and weeks following a serious accidental release of radioactivity.
The establishment of support infrastructure is likely to be a moving target as things become clearer and the affected members of the public become better informed of the situation and its ramifications. To say it must be in place before the public move back seems wrong.
Another major concern is that “this regulation does not apply while any part of an emergency plan is in effect in relation to the land in accordance with [REPPIR 2001]”. It is, of course very difficult to define when an emergency plan closes. Most off-site plans make provision for Recovery Working Groups which morph into the leadership of the recovery phase of the response which, it is recognised, could last for several years. Arguably, since this is a “part of an emergency plan” it stalls the application of this regulation pretty much indefinitely.
We need to understand a few things, including:
In summary this regulation touches on an important and difficult aspect of emergency planning; that of how do we keep the public safe, informed, healthy and at ease in areas that have been contaminated with radioactive material. The regulations require that a government minister establishes areas that have been significantly affected and defines reference levels, infrastructure, information streams and remediation plans to support these aims in those areas. There can be no argument that this is the right level for these decisions to be made.
Whether this regulation provides the appropriate regulatory tool is questionable. Hopefully we will never find out.
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.
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 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
Note: Command and Control are not synonymous terms – see the separate glossary entries.
Further research quickly yielded the US and UK Department of Defence definitions
US Department of Defence, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms
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.