Western societies would not respond well to a Fukushima-style nuclear disaster due to a lack of public information, a leading disaster expert has warned. Christopher Abbott said he firmly believed that the public ought to be better educated over the hazards and risks they may face. Illustrating his point, he referred to the Fukushima disaster of 2011 in which 160,000 people were evacuated from the vicinity of the plant as experts attempted to tackle the emergency. The evacuation worked, said Abbott, because “the Japanese educate the public”. “I just don’t see that it would have worked as successfully in western society,” he added. “[It’s] a very personal opinion but one that is backed up by Japanese colleagues.” Abbott, chairman of the Emergency Planning Society CBRN professional working group, made the remarks while giving evidence to a science and technology select committee hearing at the House of Commons on chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents. “We need to better educate the public, because a well-educated public will respond better,” he said. But Andy Bell, the deputy CBRN(E) lead at the Chief Fire Officers Association, said giving preemptive information to the public could pose risks of its own. “There obviously is some value in the preemptive thing, but I think there are some dangers in it as well in that pre-education can be misinterpreted. I would much rather give clear advice at scene that is based on the information we can see in front of us at the time.” But Abbott disagreed. “My again slightly more personal view is that we don’t educate public enough in advance. Therefore they are reliant on information at the time, which may not be timely because the advice may not be there,” he said. He did point out, however, that those living near nuclear plants in the UK were pre-informed about potential risks.
Guardian 7th June 2016 read more »