Whitehall was plunged into chaos by the Chernobyl disaster as the radioactive fall-out started arriving in the UK during a bank holiday weekend, according to newly released official files. With prime minister Margaret Thatcher out of the country on an official visit to Japan, government files released by the National Archives at Kew suggest the immediate response was little short of shambolic. Phone lines were overwhelmed, advice issued to calm public fears only inflamed them, while officials were dismayed to discover they did not have a contingency plan for dealing with an incident involving an overseas nuclear facility. “Environment secretary Kenneth Baker sought to assure the public the risks were “insignificant”, only for John Dunster, the head of the National Radiological Protection Board, to say the death toll in the UK would run to “tens of people”. “Both conclusions derived from the the same assumption and analysis. Mr Dunster was quantifying what he regarded as an insignificant risk”. “The next day he had to explain that tens of deaths would arise from cancer over the next 30 to 40 years, during which time millions would die from cancer wholly unconnected with the Chernobyl incident.”
Energy Voice 29th Dec 2017 read more »
Margaret Thatcher demanded the government draw up new contingency plans for a major nuclear incident after the response to the Chernobyl disaster was branded a “farce” and a “shambles”. Classified government papers released today reveal concern in the weeks following the disaster that failings in the government’s response could give ammunition to opponents of nuclear power and snarl proposed new power stations. Ministers had agreed to the construction of a second nuclear reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk at the time of the disaster but the decision had not been made public. The prime minister asked officials to draw up new guidelines in the event of a nuclear disaster at home or an incident overseas that sent radioactive fallout over the UK. Radiation from the explosion at Chernobyl on 26 April, 1986, spread across much of Europe, leading to residents in rural parts of Scotland, north Wales and north-west England briefly being advised not to drink rainwater.
Scotsman 29th Dec 2017 read more »
Times 29th Dec 2017 read more »