Regulations on radiation emergencies

Regulations implementing a 1996 Euratom Directive on planning for radiation emergencies were brought into force on 20 September, over a year late.1

The regulations impose a general duty on operators of premises where radioactive substances are present and carriers transporting radioactive substances by rail to assess the risks of a radiation accident liable to affect employees and/or the public, and to take "all reasonably practicable steps" to prevent such an accident and minimise its consequences.

Where it is "reasonably foreseeable" that such an accident may become an emergency in which personal exposures to radiation would exceed doses specified in the regulations, operators and carriers must prepare emergency plans to minimise such exposures.

Local authorities in whose areas an operator's premises are situated must also prepare emergency plans.

Both sets of plans must be reviewed, revised and tested at least every three years. Local authorities will be able to recover the costs they incur in carrying out their functions from operators and carriers, as well as costs incurred by the emergency services in participating in plan testing.

The regulations go on to stipulate when and how emergency plans should be implemented. They also replace existing regulations on information provision to the public, obliging operators and carriers to inform people liable to be affected by a radiation emergency in advance of the action to take should one occur. Local authorities are required to advise the public of health protection measures if a radiation emergency occurs.

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