Nuclear emergency response plan

What is a planning zone?

The response plan requires the country to be split into planning zones depending on the scale of the nuclear emergency situation. This is a set of measures based on a risk analysis.

Planning the operational roll-out of the different protective measures ensures that in the event of an emergency, the emergency service response can be effective, considered and well-planned. The country is therefore divided into a primary planning zone and a secondary planning zone.

What is the primary planning zone?

The response plan defines a primary planning zone for which provisions are taken to ensure that the necessary emergency protective actions can be implemented. The primary planning zone is measured from the Cattenom nuclear power station up to a radius of:

  • 15 km in the event on an evacuation;
  • 25 km in the event that the population is required to take shelter or potassium iodide tablets.

Evacuation, taking potassium iodide tablets and sheltering are not automatic measures to be implemented in these zones in the event of an accident at Cattenom. Which measures will be applied depends heavily on weather conditions.

The primary planning zone is divided into three alarm sectors:

  • Eastern Sector;
  • Central Sector;
  • Western Sector.

This division enables separate alarm sirens to be triggered depending on wind direction and how urgent it is that the protective measures be implemented. The aim of this territorial division is to limit the alarm to the zones actually under threat. In the event of an evacuation from the primary zone, the population will be forbidden access to this zone.


What is the secondary planning zone?

The secondary planning zone starts at the boundary of the primary planning zone and covers the rest of the territory.

The population residing in this zone may also be required to take potassium iodide tablets and to take shelter.

The main towns within the secondary planning zone will house the reception facilities required in the event of an evacuation.


What is a sphere of emergency action and intervention?

During the emergency phase, the Crisis Cell defines the spheres of action and intervention. This is the area covering the territories in which emergency preventive or protective measures are put in place immediately following a nuclear accident. In an emergency, these spheres are proposed on the basis of radiological evaluation for the implementation of the following measures:

  • the area in which shelter should be sought;
  • the area in which potassium iodide tablets should be taken;
  • the evacuation area;
  • the area in which foodstuffs must be monitored and protected;
  • the area for agricultural products and feed for livestock.

Its boundaries are not necessarily those of the primary planning zone, and can therefore exceed its limits.

Such a sphere is defined on the basis of the reference levels measured, taking into account the principles of proportionality and effectiveness. Each sphere can include one or several entire communes and/or one or several areas of one or several communes.

Such a sphere does not necessarily cover the entire primary planning zone and can exceed its limits.

While the planning zone defines the territories for which a protective measure is planned in advance, the action and intervention sphere includes the part of the territory where it is decided this measure should be implemented in an emergency.


What is the reference level?

The reference level is the clearance level for radiological exposure above which protective measures are triggered. The objective of the Crisis Cell will be to ensure optimum protection of the population. Protective measures can be implemented at lower levels depending on the circumstances and in order to optimise their effectiveness.

Reference levels have therefore been set for:

  • taking shelter: this reference level corresponds to an effective dose of 10 millisieverts (mSv);
  • evacuation: this reference level corresponds to an effective dose of 100 millisieverts (mSv);
  • taking potassium iodide tablets: this reference level corresponds to an equivalent dose of 50 millisieverts (mSv) on the thyroid.

What are the post-accident zones?

Proposed by the Crisis Cell on the recommendations of the Radiological Evaluation Cell, the post-accident zones are defined by the initial theoretical estimate before measurements taken on the ground become available. These zones depend directly on the scale of radioactive fallout onto the ground as a result of radioactive depositions lasting for varying lengths of time.

Two separate zones are provided for in order to manage the most contaminated territories:

  • the Public Protection Zone (Zone de Protection de la Population, ZPP), within which measures are taken to reduce the doses that people located there may receive, including evacuating the population from a perimeter that can extend up to 30 km, if applicable. Dose levels are the criteria used to define the Public Protection Zone;
  • the Heightened Territorial Surveillance Zone (Zone de Surveillance renforcée du Territoire, ZST), within which surveillance is carried out on foodstuffs and agricultural products intended for sale in order to ensure that the maximum permissible levels set by the relevant regulation are not exceeded. The levels of radioactive contamination within Luxembourg are the criteria on which the Heightened Territorial Surveillance Zone is set.


What is the difference between a planning zone and an action sphere?

The planning zone should not be confused with the action sphere, the area in which protective measures will be implemented during the alert depending on the seriousness of the accident and other applicable parameters. In most cases, the action sphere is limited to one section of the planning zone.

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