The Euratom Basic Safety Standards Directive was agreed upon by members of the European union in 2013, and member states have until February 2018 to explain how they will implement the Directive into national law.

The UK Government has stated that the decision to leave the European Union will not impact on its implementation of the Directive into UK law, as “it is committed to the highest standards in defence and civil nuclear and radiological safety – including standards for emergency preparedness and response”.This will require likely legislative change to the Radiation (Emergency Planning and Public Information) Regulations 2001, often known as REPPIR, which govern offsite emergency plans at nuclear sites. In light of this the government held a public consultation on Revised requirements for radiological protection: emergency preparedness and response.

The Nuclear Free local Authorities (NFLA) Secretariat prepared a report to provide an overview and model response to the consultation. As referenced in the report, TASC has been corresponding with the Government and the Office of Nuclear Regulation over which Euratom Directives are actually being consulted upon, because both TASC and NFLA share concerns over the way the consultation has been framed and run.

You can download a copy of the NFLA report in entirety here:

 

The conclusions are copied and pasted below.

 

Conclusions

The Euratom Basic Safety Standards Directive 2013 is a welcome initiative to improve generic nuclear emergency planning across Europe. NFLA is disappointed that the UK Government has implemented various parts of the Directive and not consulted on it in its entirety. It has also given just a relatively short amount of time to receive responses from stakeholders. NFLA does not think this consultation has been publicised adequately, and is aware that a number of local authority emergency planning units have not been pro-actively made aware of the consultation document. To only hold this consultation just four months before measures are supposed to being put in place is also very disappointing, and a much wider level of consultation should have taken place, for example through the BEIS NGO Forum or through local government forums like the Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum or the Scottish Councils Committee on Radioactive Substances, both of whom are interested in such matters.

 

The considerable changes required to the existing REPPIR regulations arising from the Directive gives NFLA a sense of concern that existing regulation is not completely fit for purpose.

The suggested improvements that come out of the Directive and its transposition into UK law are largely to be welcomed, though NFLA is concerned that in some areas policy is being diluted over concerns around cost and burden on the industry and Category 1 responders.

NFLA is somewhat concerned that the changes will increase the burden on local authorities at a time when emergency planning units around the country have been contracting. Moving the ONR from prescribing the likes of the detailed emergency planning zones to become more of an advisor and auditor needs to be considered very carefully. It seems to the NFLA that this change moves consideration of planning zones away from the experts in the ONR to other agencies who have more generic and less specialist knowledge.

A wider concern remains around the consistency of plans around nuclear sites. REPPIR was by no means perfect, but it did create some level of standardisation and generic planning. Whilst there are distinct advantages to outcome planning, proportional planning and graded planning, they are significant and considerable changes to the current norm. Flexible planning solutions sounds good on paper but NFLA can foresee a situation where there could be well-written and exercised plans around some nuclear sites, and more average or even inadequate planning in other areas. NFLA sees the Code of Practice as being vital for guaranteeing consistency and it is dismayed that this is not being directly consulted upon in this consultation. At present the consultation offers initial ideas which may become the Code of Practice. While these generally read well, they may not be the final definitive and agreed code of practice. Given that the new arrangements should be in place in 2018, NFLA would like to see some guarantees for a follow-up consultation on the final edition of the Code of Practice. NFLA would also like to see a clear set of nuclear emergency planning training guidelines for emergency planning officers, a more open and transparent nuclear emergency planning culture and a greater readiness to genuinely talk to the wider public and other important stakeholders when putting together new and updated plans under this process.

In terms of nuclear material transportation, NFLA would like to see a more pro-active educational planning process for all local authority emergency planning units to be added to the reactive manner of the current guidelines. With civil and defence nuclear transports rapidly increasing in recent years, NFLA remain concerned that at some point a significant accident could occur and want to be assured that a consistent approach from all local authorities can be provided.

Finally, NFLA would like to see the Ministry of Defence not just fully implement new regulations in the same manner as for civil sites and transports, but to be much more open and transparent about it. This is particularly the case around nuclear weapon transports and the involvement of Local Authorities in the planning process for them.

NFLA sees some genuine and positive developments in this area, which it actually notes comes out of a European Directive rather than an internal government policy process at a time when we are in the process of leaving the European Union. The decision of the UK Government to leave the Euratom Treaty in 2019 needs to also be considered carefully within this policy process A281 (NB168) – BSSD and nuclear EP 14 and through the separate Nuclear Safeguards Bill. NFLA is very concerned that there is not enough time to put adequate safety measures in place across all the areas currently governed by Euratom. NFLA is also concerned what may happen after Euratom, in ensuring UK nuclear emergency planning stays consistent with the rest of the European Union, and it needs more assurance from the UK Government in this area.