Bristol Evening Post, 26 April 2006

A CHERNOBYL-style explosion at Oldbury nuclear reactor would have terrible consequences for Bristol and the rest of the country, say campaigners. Millions of people from the Bristol and London areas might have to be evacuated from their homes if the nuclear reactor exploded.

Anti-nuclear campaigners have released a map based on the radiation hotspots map for Chernobyl which was produced for the United States' Central Intelligence Agency. It shows the fallout zones in the event of such a disaster.

The map shows which areas could be hit worse if an accident at Oldbury were followed by prevailing winds of a similar pattern to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Radiation would not just diminish over distance - after Chernobyl there were radiation hotspots in the middle of zones which had been barely affected and radioactive rain fell over Wales, Scotland and Cumbria.

The Chernobyl disaster killed more than 4,000 people, of which almost 3,000 were involved in the clean-up operation.

The explosion occurred after experimentation with the reactor.

British nuclear experts say reactors in this country are of better design and that the actions which led to the Chernobyl disaster would never happen here.

Each nuclear power station in Britain has a detailed emergency planning zone around it within which arrangements are made for public protection.

The zone's boundary is defined in relation to the maximum size of an accident which can reasonably be foreseen.

For Oldbury that is a 1km-ring around the reactor, which the British Nuclear Group says is enough.

But Jim Duffy, a spokesman for the Stop Hinkley and Shut Oldbury campaign, said such a disaster would have much wider reaching consequences.

He said: "Most people think that they live far enough from a nuclear reactor not to have to worry. But as we approach the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, this map shows that such an accident could require long-term evacuation of parts of London and a swathe of the Home Counties as well as Bristol and the surrounding area.

"It would be a catastrophe for Bristol and would hit the city pretty fast. It would be a death sentence for anyone who wasn't evacuated. The whole city would have to be evacuated but who knows where everyone would go.

"The safest thing would be for the Oldbury site to be closed down. It is already in a fragile state and has been running on half power for the last 18 months."

Tim Jones, spokesman for British Nuclear Group, which manages Oldbury, said: "It is very easy for someone to draw lines on a map and then to make all sorts of claims. The Oldbury reactors are completely different to the reactors in Chernobyl and there is a detailed emergency planning zone around the site to protect the public if anything did happen."

But Friends of the Earth spokesman Alan Pinder said the 1-km emergency zone was not enough. He said: "If this did happen it wouldn't just be people within a 1-km range that would be affected - it would affect the whole of northern Europe, depending on the winds.

"British nuclear reactors are pretty safe so it is not likely to happen but if it did the whole of Bristol would have to be evacuated and the mind boggles at how they would do it."

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