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LCQ20: Daya Bay Contingency Plan

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai in the Legislative Council today (March 28):


     Regarding Hong Kong's contingency plan in respect of nuclear incidents, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has assessed the number of people in Hong Kong to be evacuated when the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant is under an Off-Site Emergency situation (i.e. the radiological consequences of the emergency extend beyond the site boundary) and a reactor core meltdown takes place; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the existing manpower and resources of the Government, as well as the load capacity of Hong Kongˇ¦s primary distributor roads, are adequate to cope with the need for people leaving Hong Kong in the event of nuclear incidents of varying levels; if so, of the details, if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether there will be electricity outages in various districts of the territory when a nuclear incident occurs at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant; if so, of the reasons for that, and what measures it has, including whether back-up power supply will be available for temporary use, to deal with the situation;

(d) of the evacuation zone in Hong Kong when a nuclear incident of the same level as the one that took place in Fukushima of Japan last year occurs at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant; the criteria adopted for designating the evacuation zone; the criteria based on which the authorities determine whether it is necessary to extend the evacuation zone; and

(e) given that the Security Bureau has announced earlier that it will conduct a drill under the Daya Bay Contingency Plan in the next quarter, of the details of the drill, including the exact date, scale as well as the participating government departments and organisations, etc.?



     Following the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011, the HKSAR Government launched a comprehensive review of the Daya Bay Contingency Plan (DBCP).  We have completed the review and revised the DBCP, which has incorporated a series of enhancement measures including strengthening radiation monitoring and countermeasures on various fronts, enhancing public education and information dissemination arrangements etc.  The Government is also planning to conduct a large-scale exercise in the second quarter of 2012 to test the coordination and response capabilities of Government bureaux and departments.  My reply to Member's question is as follows:

(a) and (d) Contingency planning abides by the principle of accommodating all accidents that are reasonably foreseeable in conducting risk assessment based on sufficient scientific justifications.  The outcome of the review confirms that it is appropriate to provide for the maximum range of 20 km from the nuclear power stations in Daya Bay as the "Emergency Zone".  Depending on the scale of a nuclear accident, evacuation, sheltering or the use of thyroid blocking agents may be implemented as necessary as countermeasures within the zone.  Ping Chau, currently with less than 10 usual residents, is the only landmass in Hong Kong within this zone.  The arrangement has already taken into account the off-site emergency situation of a nuclear power station and the assessment on the seriousness of different accidents (including core meltdown and loss of containment integrity).  This arrangement is also in line with the prevailing standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the most stringent requirements of advanced countries.

     In the course of the DBCP review, the Hong Kong Observatory has notably applied a new computer software version and assessment system to simulate possible consequences to Hong Kong in case of the most serious accidents at the nuclear power stations in Daya Bay, including serious accidents classified as level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, which is the highest level.  This computer-based system can ingest latest meteorological information as well as information on the magnitude of the radiological release to model the transport and dispersion of the released radioactive materials and predict the radiation dose to the public in various parts of the territory.  The assessment has fully considered the worst case scenario that may be foreseen to happen at the nuclear power stations in Daya Bay, and its result confirms that maintaining the current 20 km range of the "Emergency Zone" is appropriate.  

     In the unlikely event of a nuclear accident, the Government will closely monitor the situation and assess the consequences to Hong Kong of any radiological release and, in accordance with the latest criteria for intervention promulgated by the IAEA, consider if it is necessary to take any appropriate countermeasures or in which areas should countermeasures be warranted.  Beyond the "Emergency Zone" where the vast majority of the areas in Hong Kong lie, even though there is a possibility of a transient passage of the radioactive plume, the most effective countermeasure for residents in the affected locations is to stay indoors.  The concrete buildings in Hong Kong are effective in substantially reducing exposure to radiation.

     We will continue to closely monitor any new standard that may be promulgated by the IAEA and advanced overseas countries following their nuclear safety inspections and reviews, and update and strengthen different aspects of the DBCP to meet the latest national or international safety levels.

(b) The risk assessment based on scientific justifications confirms that even the most serious accidents in the nuclear power stations will not pose serious public health and safety risks within Hong Kong, and certainly will not warrant evacuation of a large number of members of public.  In fact, during an emergency, the provision of timely, accurate and appropriate information to the public is the most effective way to stem unnecessary panic caused by rumours.  A number of improvement measures have been incorporated into the latest revised DBCP to enhance the dissemination of public information during emergencies, which include making the most of the media and information technology through e.g. the launching of a dedicated DBCP website as a one-stop portal to provide the latest information, as well as the use of smartphone applications to reach the public more direct.

(c) Should there be any emergency at nuclear power stations in Daya Bay that causes interruption to the electricity supply to Hong Kong, the power companies in Hong Kong can immediately utilise the spinning reserve available in the power system to ensure that the electricity supply in Hong Kong will not be affected.  Even under extreme circumstances where the electricity supply to a few areas may be temporarily affected, the spinning reserve can restore the electricity supply within 30 minutes.

(e) Based on the revised DBCP, the planning of an inter-departmental exercise is now in full swing.  Consultation with participating organisations and resident bodies is also in progress with a view to conducting the full-scale exercise in the second quarter of 2012.  The exact date will be announced as soon as possible.  The objectives of the exercise are to:
* test the coordination and response capabilities of bureaux and operational departments involved in the event of a serious off-site accident at the nuclear power stations at Daya Bay;

* practise the command, control, planning, deployment and support organisations which would function during various stages when the DBCP is activated; and

* test and practise the above in response to other emergencies or natural disasters that might possibly happen incidental to the off-site accident, based on the complementary support of the Emergency Response System.

     The scope of the exercise will cover alerting procedures; activation of the DBCP; decision making and communication among bureaux and operational departments involved under the emergency response structure; radiation monitoring and assessment; plume countermeasures; ingestion countermeasures; boundary control measures; assistance to radiologically contaminated persons; dissemination of information to the public; and mechanism to handle the media and public enquiries.

     We anticipate that over 30 bureaux and departments will send officers to participate in the exercise, typically those who will :

* make decisions in implementing the contingency plan and those in support;
* man the various coordination and control centres;
* attend the various emergency committees;
* answer press and public enquiries; and
* take part in the field operations.

     Although the exercise is intended to test out the Government's coordination and command capabilities and departments' response functions, we also plan to invite relevant local resident bodies and volunteers to play an appropriate part, to enhance the realism and to test out certain procedures and arrangements.  In addition, we will invite observers from the Mainland and overseas to evaluate the effectiveness as demonstrated by the exercise and the performance of the players and to make recommendations for improvements.  We will also invite local experts to participate as observers, such as the professionals who have assisted us in the review of the DBCP.

Ends/Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Issued at HKT 18:07


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