‘Biggest fear is another disaster like Chernobyl’
The threat of nuclear fall-out is back in the news with the standoff between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the end of the Cold War, the Government has concentrated on the possible fall-out of an accident at a nuclear plant rather than a nuclear attack.
Security analyst Declan Power says an accident in Eastern Europe, similar to the incident at Chernobyl, is more likely than an incident at one of the British plants such as Sellafield.
If there was an incident, the response would be led by the Department of Housing in conjunction with other agencies including the Office of Radiological Protection.
The principal fear is that a nuclear accident in the UK or Europe could release a radioactive plume into the atmosphere. Depending on the wind speed and direction, it could eventually reach Ireland.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, due to Ireland’s distance from any nuclear facility, it is unlikely that anyone in Ireland would need to stay indoors. However, in a serious case, the authorities could issue its warning to the public to “go in, stay in, tune in”.
Going indoors to your home, workplace or another indoor location could protect you from exposure to radiation and reduce your long-term cancer risk.
You should remain indoors until advised by the authorities that the radioactive plume has moved on. This may take a few hours, depending on the nature of the accident, and the weather.
TV and radio stations — both state and commercial — will be kept fully briefed about the emergency. You will be kept updated with the latest news and advice, and informed if any actions such as remaining indoors are necessary. Information will also be made available on the internet and social media.
In 2002, Irish households were issued with iodine tablets for use in a nuclear emergency. Stable iodine helps to counteract radioactive iodine, but because of the changing nature of more modern nuclear plants, these pills are now considered unnecessary and redundant.
Suited and booted: An emergency nuclear drill in the 1980s