Irish battle fallout from nuclear TV show

The Irish Government has resorted to damage control after scenes of a fictional nuclear disaster was beamed into homes across the country.

A doom-laden docudrama looking at what effects a meltdown at the UK’s Sellafield nuclear plant might have on Ireland was broadcast by TV channel RTE at the weekend.

The programme depicted rioting, social collapse and widespread health impacts in the wake of the disaster.

The effect of the show was reminiscent of the low-key panic that followed the broadcast of gritty BBC nuclear war drama Threads in the UK in 1984.

The government has taken steps to reassure the public that while a disaster at Sellafield would not be good news for Ireland, the programme over-played the problem and overlooked contingency plans in place to react to such an accident.

“The Programme has been described by the makers as fiction, drama and entertainment,” said Environment Minister Dick Roche.

“It must be viewed and considered in that context. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has informed me that it takes issue with elements of the programme.

“However, the promotion of the programme has overlooked and failed to acknowledge some basic facts.

“In particular the fact that the Government has in place a National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents has not received the attention it deserves. This is a matter of major importance to every citizen of this country.”

Sellafield is a thorn in the side of diplomatic relations between Ireland and the UK, with Dublin frequently calling for the closure of the plant (see related story).

But while it is still in operation, Ireland takes steps to protect itself from possible problems.

Dr Ann McGarry, chief executive of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, said: “While the Institute has always been concerned at the possibility of an accident at Sellafield involving the Highly Active Storage Tanks (HASTs), the scenario envisaged in the programme is not realistic and grossly exaggerates the amount of radioactivity that could reach Ireland.

“The RPII cannot envisage any realistic scenario that would cause the radiation levels in Ireland to reach the concentrations as what was depicted in the drama”.

“The RPII continuously monitors the effect of discharges from the Sellafield plant on the Irish environment. We have systems in place to alert us directly of any increase in radiation levels and to help us to rapidly assess the consequences for the Irish population.

“We then use this information to determine the most appropriate and effective measures to be taken to minimise the exposure of the population.”

Sam Bond

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