The UK Government, and indeed administrations the world over, must learn the lessons on preparedness that COVID-19 has brutally taught us. Events of the last few months have escalated the risk of a nuclear incident to levels not seen since the Cold War.
A combination of belligerent rhetoric and armed conflict within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and in close proximity to operational nuclear reactors, have awakened the public to the prospect of internationally significant fallout. In addition, the global drive for net zero will necessitate the construction of new nuclear reactors in developing nations, vulnerable to severe weather, natural disaster and civil unrest.
It is the UK Government’s intent to embrace the “safe, clean, affordable new generation of nuclear reactors, taking the UK back to pre-eminence in a field where we once led the world”. While this is a very sensible strategic move, we need to ensure that we have all supporting safety and security measures in place to respond to a nuclear incident in the UK.
With about 30 countries considering, planning, or starting nuclear power programmes, the expansion of civil nuclear reactors increases the potential for a nuclear incident to happen. We therefore need to make sure that our ability to respond to an international incident is as robust and up to date as possible. This also poses an opportunity for the UK to export its expertise in rapid response monitoring and to be the partner of choice for building indigenous capability.