Impact of Fukushima on Ireland

Date released: Mar 08 2012

No room for complacency in international nuclear safety.

A report on the impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan on Ireland published today by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) concludes that radiation levels detected were miniscule and had no public health consequences.

Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said today: “The radiation doses in Ireland from the Fukushima accident were extremely low and of no health consequence. However the accident underlines the fact that there is no room for complacency within the international nuclear industry and a nuclear accident anywhere has potential to be a nuclear accident everywhere.”

The total estimated radiation dose to an adult in Ireland from the additional radioactivity resulting from the Fukushima accident was 0.26 microsievert. By comparison, the typical annual average dose in Ireland from all sources of radioactivity including naturally occurring radiation and medical exposures is 3950 microsievert. The doses in Ireland from exposure to radioactivity from Fukushima were therefore of no significance from a public health or food safety point of view.

The RPII is an independent regulatory authority whose role is to ensure that people in Ireland are protected from the harmful effects of radiation. The RPII has no role in the promotion or otherwise of nuclear power.

The RPII has a responsibility to monitor developments abroad in relation to nuclear installations and radiological safety and to advise Government on their implications for Ireland. As part of this role, the RPII represents Ireland on European and international forums on issues relating to nuclear safety in order to ensure that Ireland’s views and concerns are taken into account.

According to Dr McGarry: “The Fukushima accident underlined the necessity for nuclear safety authorities worldwide to re-evaluate the safety of operating nuclear power plants and to assess the relevant safety margins against the type of extreme events which occurred at Fukushima.”

In the EU, the findings from these so called ‘Stress Tests’ are being reviewed by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), of which the RPII is a member, with a final report going to the European Council in June 2012. Of particular interest to Ireland is the promotion of openness and transparency in the areas of nuclear safety and radioactive waste and spent fuel management, and the RPII is very active in pushing this agenda. To this end, ENSREG will organise a public meeting, planned for the summer, to discuss the outcomes of the stress tests.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The Assessment of the Impact on Ireland of the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Accident.

The RPII carries out continuous testing to ensure that environmental radiation remains within internationally agreed and legal safety limits. The key elements of the RPII monitoring programme are the assessment of ambient radioactivity based on measurements of radioactivity in air and of external gamma dose rate from a network of permanent monitoring stations located throughout the country; assessment of levels of radioactivity in a variety of food products and drinking water; and assessment of levels of radioactivity in the Irish marine environment based on sampling and measurement of seawater, sediment, seaweed, fish and shellfish. The programme combines round-the-clock measurements from the permanent monitoring network and a programme of sampling followed by laboratory testing.

The results are published in a series of reports, all of which are available on the website.

The EU stress tests cover extreme triggering events like earthquakes and floods and the consequences of any events (whether natural disasters or transport accidents, such as airplane crashes) potentially leading to multiple loss of safety functions requiring severe accident management. All the operators of nuclear power plants in the EU were required to review the response of their nuclear plants to the above extreme situations. The operators’ reports were then reviewed by the national nuclear regulator and national summary reports prepared and submitted to the European Commission at the end of 2011. These national reports have all been published on www.ensreg.eu.

The EU stress tests cover only nuclear power plants and not other facilities such as nuclear reprocessing plants. The UK is requiring all licensed nuclear installations in the UK to undertake a version of the stress tests. The UK report to the European Commission covered the assessments of the nuclear power plants and the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation has signalled that it intends to publish the findings of the stress tests covering all other licensed nuclear installations, including the Sellafield Reprocessing Plant, in spring 2012.