Restart nuclear attack or accident public information campaigns, experts say

War in Ukraine, plus more reactors being built around the world, has increased the risk, a paper said.

10 June 2022

Public information campaigns about nuclear attack or accident should restart as the threat to the UK has risen to Cold War levels, according to experts.

Lessons should be learned from the response to the Covid-19 outbreak and put into preparedness for possible radioactive fallout, the authors of a new paper on the nuclear risk have said.

While war in Ukraine has heightened fears of a radioactive bomb being used, they also state that the world’s shift away from fossil fuels towards nuclear power has increased the chance of an accident somewhere in the world.

In response to the paper, Defence Select Committee chair Tobias Ellwood MP said: “Perhaps, with the war in Ukraine and Russian troops attacking nuclear power stations and Putin threatening nuclear attack, it is timely to review our resilience to nuclear accidents and attacks.”

The paper – Rethinking our readiness for rapid response radiation monitoring in the face of nuclear incidents – has been written by Professor Tom B Scott of Bristol University, Nick Tomkinson, senior partner at Global Nuclear Security Partners, and Dr Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek Group, which manufactures radiation detectors.

They recommend that the Government should start up a nuclear attack or accident public information campaign, warning people what to do in the event of a serious event, as it did during the Cold War.

In 1980, the Government published the Protect and Survive pamphlet and others followed advising on how to build fallout shelters. TV adverts were also produced.

Dr Basu said: “The consequences as a result of events outlined in this white paper are unthinkable.

“While we are all becoming acutely aware of burgeoning risk, the general population is not well briefed on what to do if the worst were to happen.

“Only by taking action now on pre-emptive preparedness we can be resilient and continue to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in nuclear safety as the world turns increasingly to it for decarbonisation beyond this current threat.”

The authors say there must be a national strategy with local and regional co-ordination and that local resilience forums, which worked during Covid, need training, equipment and infrastructure to operate alongside a senior responsible officer within government.

The paper also says current radiation levels should be monitored to enable a before and after picture to be drawn up in the event of a nuclear event.

Globally, an international “car park” for nuclear material should be organised by the UN so it can be safely stored.

In his foreword to the paper, Professor Michael Clarke, a former director general of the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said: “Nuclear danger is back near the top of the international security agenda.

“When the Cold War came to an end the possibility that nuclear weapons might be used somewhere, sometime, seemed to recede.

“But we have all been rudely awakened to the greater dangers mankind is facing over the last decade, and particularly in our most recent turbulent years.”

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