Ready to respond to nuclear emergency

Should a major nuclear incident happen in the UK, the HSE  industry regulator would set in motion its well-practiced plans for responding to a crisis.

HSE’s Nuclear Directorate (ND) employs a dedicated emergency arrangements team, tasked with ensuring we are ready and able to respond effectively.

The team arranges training of ND staff and organises our participation in multi-agency emergency exercises at regional and national levels.

They also maintain a hi-tech co-ordination centre – the Redgrave Court Incident Suite (RCIS) – at our HQ building in Merseyside. The facility provides access to a range of services, including Met Office mapping systems and secure telecommunications.

The RCIS is called into action on average 10 times per year with participation in ‘live play’ training scenarios. These keep the regulator, the industry and other agencies on their toes and ensure continuous improvements through lessons learned.

“I am confident we could deal effectively with any incident,” explained Sandra Little, emergency arrangements team leader. “Of course, there’s more to responding to a nuclear emergency than just what goes on at Redgrave Court. We’d send an inspector to the emergency control centre at the site, we’d have a presence at the strategic co-ordinating centre and our chief inspector would report direct to ministers at nuclear emergency briefings at Whitehall or the Scottish Parliament.”

The National Emergency Planning and Liaison Group link to external website monitor such emergency arrangements nationally. “I chair its lessons learned sub-group, which pulls together the findings from each exercise and identifies areas for improvement,” said Sandra.

“We’ve made numerous changes to our systems and procedures, further improving our ability to respond should an emergency arise.

“We’ve never had to use the RCIS in anger but thanks to the improvements we’ve made and the greater number of people now trained up to handle any nuclear eventuality, we’re better prepared than we’ve ever been to provide an effective response should the unthinkable ever happen.”