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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 12:36 GMT
Safety fears of nuclear plant attack
Bradwell power plant
Nuclear power stations could be attacked
The ability of emergency services to deal with a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant has to be improved, experts have warned.

It is claimed the 11 September terrorist attacks should have been a "wake-up call" for the defence of nuclear plants such as Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex and Sizewell, Suffolk.

But an official report into an exercise which simulated a jet crash into the Bradwell-on-Sea plant last year found confusion in the emergency response.

And experts told BBC Radio 4's File on Four that emergency services need more equipment and training.

Emergencies and disasters are now blipping away on the Government's radar screen and something has to be done

Professor David Alexander

Professor David Alexander, disaster expert at the Royal Military College of Science, told the programme: "There is no doubt whatsoever that September 11 was a wake-up call for the emergency services and the process of emergency planning.

"Since September 11, I don't think progress has really been rapid enough.

"Emergencies and disasters are now blipping away on the Government's radar screen and something has to be done."

Essex emergency planning chief Peter Pearson said the Bradwell exercise had alerted him to gaps in the county's preparations for disaster.

More resources

"We had never, in any of the planning assumptions, been led to believe that the implications would be so widespread," he said.

"Basically, we need more resources in order to run a much wider range of exercises, to train more people and have more capacity to deal with larger numbers of casualties."

Independent nuclear consultant John Large told Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday that nuclear power stations were vulnerable to terrorist attack.

"The basic premise of nuclear power plant safety is that they are protected against accident or natural hazards," he said.

"Accidents are unintentional and unintelligent attacks, whereas a terrorist attack would be intelligent, deliberately seeking out the vulnerabilities."

Energy minister Brian Wilson told the programme that increased emergency planning was not a top priority for his department.

In January, Greenpeace activists highlighted security concerns when they broke into the Sizewell B power plant.


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See also:

28 Mar 02 | England
23 May 00 | Scotland
22 Aug 98 | Science/Nature
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