Minutes from SAGE update meeting 13 April 2011
Held in 35 Great Smith Street Whitehall at 14.50
Professor Sir John Beddington (Government Chief Scientific Adviser and SAGE Chair)
Hillary Walker (Department for Health)
Nick Gent (Health Protection Agency)
Chris Bradley (for David Clary) (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
David MacKay (Department for Energy and Climate Change)
Julia Longbottom (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
Mike Griffiths (RIMNET)
Paul Tossell (Food Standards Agency)
Robert Hunter (Civil Aviation Authority)
Janet Dixon (Defra)
Richard Wakeford (University of Manchester)
Rob Hunter (Civil Aviation Authority)
Jill Meara (Health Protection Agency)
Jane Simmonds (Health Protection Agency)
David Griffiths (Environment Agency)
Anne Glover (CSA for Scotland)
Kevin Hesketh (National Nuclear Laboratories)
Matt Hort (Met Office)
Sue Ion (Independent)
Bill Camplin (Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science)
Andy Hall (Office of Nuclear Regulation)
Len Creswell (Office of Nuclear Regulation)
Miles Elsden (GO-Science)
Elizabeth Surkovic (GO-Science)
Elizabeth Moore (Cabinet Office)
Chris McFee (GO-Science)
Richard Meadows (GO-Science)
AGENDA ITEM 1: WELCOME
1. The CHAIR welcomed all to the meeting.
AGENDA ITEM 2: SITUATION UPDATE
Current Reactor Status
2. The Office for Nuclear regulation told SAGE that there had been no significant change in the situation at the plant since they last met.
3. SAGE discussed the change to the INES level rating from 5 to 7. SAGE members agreed that this change reflected the rating system catching up with the reality of the situation after more detailed measurements had been carried out, rather than an indication of the situation deteriorating.
4. Given the level of response needed by the Japanese authorities, SAGE agreed that INES level 7 was an accurate representation of the situation.
Source Term / Reasonable Worst Case Scenario
5. The Office for Nuclear Regulation outlined the current situation at the plant and SAGE discussed the status of the reactor units and fuel ponds. SAGE agreed with the ONR assessment and agreed that there was, as yet, no reason to change the current source term agreed at the last meeting for the reasonable worst case scenario. SAGE members agreed that it could be some time before it was clear that the current worse case scenario was no longer credible, particularly as there is still seismic activity ongoing in the region and that the reasonable worst case should therefore still be applicable.
6. SAGE discussed the triggers which would determine when SAGE and relevant scientific support and advice functions would no longer be required. It was agreed that this question would be revisited at a future SAGE meeting.
7. A number of SAGE members emphasised that there would need to be consideration given to the longer term management of the containment of radioactive water.
8. The Met Office gave an update on the current weather conditions in Japan. They confirmed that forecasts are continuing to provide input into modelling.
9. The Met Office were asked about the threat of tropical storms and typhoons. The Met Office told SAGE that there is already an adequate global early warning system in place for this eventuality.
Health / Food / Water
10. The Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency told SAGE that there had not been any major developments relating to the regulation of food and water or health impacts.
11. CEFAS said that they were working with the British Embassy in Tokyo to gather more information on the current marine monitoring measures in place. CEFAS were asked to report back to SAGE on the outcome of this engagement.
AGENDA ITEM 3: 80KM PRECAUTIONARY ZONE
12. SAGE discussed the scientific basis behind the 80km zone and agreed that there was, on radiation protection grounds, a sound case for relaxing the 80km zone to 60km. It was also agreed that in announcing this relaxation the message should re-emphasis the need to adhere to the advice given by the Japanese authorities, for instance in relation to any future re-opening of the main road to Sendai.
AGENDA ITEM 4: IODINE TABLETS
13. The Department for Health and the HPA discussed the basis by which Iodine tablets would be used in a radiation health emergency. SAGE agreed that, given the current situation at Fukushima, there was no reason to continue to distribute iodine tablets to British nationals in Japan. This was due to the decreased presence of Iodine-131 owing to the passing of 4 half lives since the start of the emergency.
AGENDA ITEM 5: 24hr EMERGENCY RESPONSE
14. GO-Science presented a paper to SAGE on the current emergency modelling arrangements. With the improved situation at the plant, the aim was to move to weekly update meetings informed by weekly situation reports from the Embassy in Tokyo. These discussions would be via telecons and would include all the key agencies and Departments on SAGE. At the moment, the 24hr emergency response network would be maintained for at least a month. SAGE agreed with this approach
15. However SAGE members recognised that the initial reason for the 24 hour emergency response was to inform FCO advice on travel and Iodine tablets in the context of the reasonable worst case occurring at Tokyo. Given the changing situation, the likely need of such an incident occurring was diminishing and it was more likely that any event would only have a local impact.
16. Therefore, SAGE agreed that there was therefore no requirement for RIMNET to continue doing modelling every 24 hours and that this could be reduced to 6x 12 hour model runs every 48 hours which would still provide adequate modelling.
AGENDA ITEM 6: MONITORING NEEDS IN THE UK
17. The Environment Agency, the HPA and RIMNET outlined the current situation in the UK where only trivial amounts of radiation had been measured. Given this assessment, SAGE agreed that there was no need for the current enhanced radiation monitoring in the UK to be continued and that business as usual monitoring should continue.
AGENDA ITEM 7: AOB
18. The DfT told SAGE that the first container ship from Japan which had been present in Japan at the time of the earthquake (and hence could in theory have some contamination present) arrived in the UK on Tuesday 12th April. However, there were currently no issues with alarms being triggered in the unloading of its cargo.
19. The CHAIR thanked the group for their past and continued support throughout the emergency. He said he thought that SAGE would not be formally asked to meet again, although it was likely that SAGE members would still be asked to provide advice on an ad-hoc basis.