Nuclear accident drill exposes flaws

An agency drill to prepare officials in the event of a nuclear accident exposed a series of flaws, according to a new report.

The exercise, Short Sermon, took place in October 2013 and was intended to test reactions involving a reactor of a nuclear-powered warship in Plymouth. The scenario included radioactive material released into the atmosphere and numerous casualties.

However, according to a new report by the Ministry of Defence into the drill, a number of gaffes were identified in the way that agencies handled the exercise such as “severely flawed and wrong” evacuation instructions and a “lack of understanding” of the direction in which the radiation was moving.  

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, involved in the drill, described a "lamentable lack of information mapping or charts" at an initial meeting, with "confused" deployment of fire engines.

There was also a case where ambulance workers rushed in a “victim” suffering from radiation related contamination without warning or precaution.

"The exercise proved once again to be most challenging for all agencies that took part,” said the report.

Responses to the scenario included part of the site being evacuated to shelters, a cordon quickly enforced and maintained, and plans to distribute potassium iodate tablets put in place.

A total of 29 agencies took part in the exercise covering strategic, tactical and operational levels from Devonport, Devon to Whitehall, London.

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