Minutes from SAGE update meeting 18 March 2011
Held in 35 Great Smith Street Whitehall at 10.30
Professor John Beddington
Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor and SAGE Chair
Hillary Walker (Department for Health)
Nick Gent (Health Protection Agency)
Colin Potter (Health and Safety Executive)
John Simpson (Health Protection Agency)
Mike Weightman (Health and Safety Executive (Chief Nuclear Inspector))
Pat Boyle (Met Office)
Mike Griffiths (RIMNET)
Andy Hall (Health and Safety Executive)
Paul Howarth (National Nuclear Laboratory)
Arwyn Davies (Defra)
David Makay (CSA DECC)
Peter O (CPNI)
Sue Ion (Independent)
Mat Hort (Met Office)
Kevin Hesketh (National Nuclear Laboratory)
Robin Grimes (Imperial College)
Brian Baptie (British Geological Survey)
Phil Robinson (British Energy)
Richard Wakeford (University of Manchester)
Jeremy Clayton (GO Science)
Miles Elsden (GO Science)
Elizabeth Surkovic (GO-Science)
Catherine Finney (Cabinet Office)
Elizabeth Moore (Cabinet Office)
Richard Meadows (GO Science)
AGENDA ITEM 1: WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
1. The CHAIR welcomed SAGE members and outlined the confidentiality agreement for the benefit of those members new to SAGE.
AGENDA ITEM 2: DRAFT MINUTES
2. The Minutes of the previous meeting were not circulated before the meeting and so could not be agreed. It was agreed that they be circulated after the meeting for agreement at the next meeting.
AGENDA ITEM 3: REVIEW OF CURRENT SITUATION
a. Reactor Status
3. Reports were provided from a number of sources on the on-going emergency in Fukushima nuclear plant. In brief, the situation was reported as currently improved, but continued vigilance would be required. It would appear that reactors one to three are currently controlled; the ponds remain an issue. Pond four seems to have been cooled and this would indicate that measures to date have been effective.
4. SAGE was informed that there had been no dramatic change on site and that the continuing issue was that of the fuel ponds and reactors.
5. SAGE was informed that sea water is continuing to be pumped onto the reactors and that there is the concern that salt depositions could hinder the cooling of the fuel. It was also unknown whether the water was left to evaporate as steam or re-circulated - this detail would be crucial in determining salt deposition rates.
6. SAGE were informed of conflicting reports as to whether power source connection to the pumps had been achieved. Further, it was unclear as to whether fresh or sea water was being used, it was thought that there may not be an adequate supply of fresh water to use.
7. SAGE was informed that reactor 4 was defueled and reactors 5 and 6 were 1/3rd unloaded. Detailed information on the type, amount or state of the fuel present in reactors 4,5 or 6, or ponds for the reactors 4,5, 6 were unknown and this would be important information. SAGE agreed that these reactors were of a lower priority but that no assumption should be made to the effect that there are no issues with reactors 5 and 6.
ACTION - Robin Grimes, HSE, and NNL to gather more information on the status of reactors 4, 5 and 6 working with international collaborators.
8. SAGE were informed about a possible time-path to an incident should the cooling water evaporate. There were some variables which were not known which would impact on the process, however a general cause for concern was of a possible zirconium fire. More information would be needed to ascertain the likelihood of this happening, although this was currently estimated to be low.
ACTION - HSE to organise a working group to look at the likely scenario and critical path in the eventuality of the cooling water evaporating.
b. Weather Forecast
9. SAGE were informed of the following:
- That there was no risk of the weather causing a radioactive plume over land (in the eventuality of a release) for Friday and Saturday.
- On Sunday there is high probability that, in the event of any release the wind direction will transport any plume over the area around Sendai. This would happen over a period of 12 hours from 6am.
- On Monday there is a probability of a North Easterly wind which would see a radioactive plume (in the eventuality of a release) travel over Tokyo until 1200 UTC on Wednesday.
ACTION – RIMNET to run a worst case scenario for Sendai by Saturday.
c. Health Implications
10. SAGE agreed that the health advice should remain the same and was notified that this is now updated to include pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
11. SAGE discussed the risk to international aviation and agreed that cruising altitudes posed no risk and it would be in take off and landing where the risk would be greatest – but this would be at a level comparable to those on the ground and the same advice would apply.
ACTION – Advice, provided by SAGE representatives, for a press release to be sought by CAA.
e. International Collaboration
12. SAGE was informed that GSAC and UK experts have been speaking with opposite numbers in France, USA and Germany. Initial modelling and results have been shared.
13. There are some differences in the assumptions in the modelling but in general terms other countries are moderating their estimates which appear generally in line with the UK of 15-30mSv in Tokyo although they are doing recalculations.
14. SAGE was informed that the United States have reduced their top number (400 mSv) as unrealistic.
15. The French have estimated single figure mSv in Tokyo, but based on the weather patterns swinging towards Tokyo rather than the current weather.
16. Officials are now working closely together at a technical level to continue to refine predictions and understand and resolve differences. Further updates will follow and are being actively chased.
AGENDA ITEM 4: IMPLICATIONS OF RECENT EVENTS
17. SAGE were informed about the implications of contaminated material coming into the UK and the effects of multiple alerts.
ACTION – HPA to report back to SAGE on this information.
AGENDA ITEM 5: OTHER ISSUES
18. SAGE were informed that HSE, NNL, Met Office, RIMNET and HPA have been working to provide an end-to-end modelling capability.
19. The existing link between HSE, Met Office and RIMNET to provide radiological plume modelling is now linked to HPA dose expertise. This is a new capability that is being tested on Friday 18 March and first results would be available on 19 March.
20. In practice, this will provide the ability to make real time dosage predictions for 5 key cities around Northern Japan, plus at the 80km boundary, using current and predicted weather in the event of any release. This will allow early warning to be given, though dosage information will require a while longer.
ACTION – GO Science / Cabinet Office / FCO to run an operational test to ensure we have communication routes in place so we can use this new capability when it is operational.
Contaminated food and water
21. SAGE were content with the advice that DEFRA and FSA had produced for British Nationals on food and water contamination and this has been forwarded to FCO.
22. SAGE was informed that DEFRA/FSA will be working with CEFAS to look at the impact on the marine environment with more in-depth modelling.
23. SAGE was content with the advice HPA/DH have provided to FCO in support of any possible change in advice to BNs in Tokyo in regard to taking Potassium Iodate.
24. It was agreed by SAGE that advice should include a recommendation that pregnant and breast feeding mothers as well as children should take iodine tablets.
AGENDA ITEM 6: AOB
25. There were no AOB points raised.