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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
City prepares nuclear sub drill
by Anna Lindsay
BBC News Online, Southampton

Stay inside, leave your children at school and take anti-radiation pills - it sounds like a scene from a sensational Hollywood blockbuster.

Campaigners are angry a nuclear vessel may be berthed near the city

But emergency planners have given a clear signal that nuclear submarines are to return to Southampton, after preparing a similar radiation disaster action plan.

The emergency guidelines advise residents on what to do if a visiting submarine is involved in an accident, releasing radioactive material.

Advice will be sent to residents within a 2km radius of Southampton's nuclear berth, prior to a visit.

Campaigners are furious nuclear vessels could be berthed so near a major city.

Tablets handed out

The Royal Navy has used the so-called Z-berth twice in the last six years, according to the city council, which has no say over whether nuclear-powered vessels visit Southampton.

It is the last remaining Z-berth based in a commercial UK port.

In the event of a nuclear accident, residents in the 2km zone will be issued with potassium iodate tablets (Pits), told not to collect their children from school, to stay inside and not use the telephone.

Di McDonald, of the Southampton-based Nuclear Information Service, says the plan, called Sotonsafe, will fail in the event of a disaster.

People are told not to collect their children from school and that's very alarming for parents
Di McDonald
She told BBC News Online: "The council's position is that they do not want nuclear submarines in the docks, but if they have no choice, they want to protect people.

"If you have a plume of radiation coming over a town then that's very hard to do. It really isn't doable for real, ordinary people. It's bound to fail.

"People are told not to collect their children from school and that's very alarming for parents; teachers might have to administer tablets to children, which they are not qualified to do.

"It's irresponsible of the Navy to insist on bringing a nuclear reactor into the middle of a major city."

'Visit possibly sometime next year'

She said campaigners are also angry the full plan - which took the city council two years to put together after safety responsibilities were passed to them from the Navy - is only available at present in public libraries.

A Navy spokesman told BBC News Online: "There are no plans at the moment to bring a nuclear-powered vessel into Southampton - and there won't be a visit until the council plan has been exercised and approved by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

"We have never had an accident involving the release of radioactive material into the environment in any of our nuclear subs during the 40 to 50 years we've been operating them.

"In any event, we don't discuss movements of subs much before about a week ahead. There are no plans for that kind of vessel at all at the minute. There may be a visit possibly sometime next year."





LINKS TO MORE HAMPSHIRE/DORSET STORIES


 

SEE ALSO:
Clean-up on Russian nuclear subs
21 May 03  |  Europe
Concern over nuclear sub disposal
08 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Plan for nuclear submarine return
05 Nov 02  |  England


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