National Radiation Exercise

26 November 2018

On Sunday, 25th November 2018 Civil Defence exercised its response to a potential nuclear fallout hitting these shores as a result of a nuclear industrial accident abroad. The exercise required the activation of every Civil Defence radiation monitoring team across the country.

The exercise commenced with the issuing of a message from national headquarters to all Civil Defence Officers at local authority level. The message informed the Civil Defence Officer that the EPA Radiation Section (RPII) had requested Civil Defence to activate its Radiation Monitoring Service due to potential fallout from an overseas Nuclear Industrial Accident impacting on Ireland. The Civil Defence Officers were then requested to activate their Radiation Monitoring Teams and standby for deployment. Details of sampling locations followed approximately 30 minutes later. The initial message issued at 8 am. By 9.30 am, 31 Civil Defence radiation monitoring teams mobilised to specific locations to carry out grass, soil and background radiation sampling in an attempt to identify the severity and extent of the fallout area. Once the samples were taken the background radiation readings were relayed to the Civil Defence national control room across multiple communications platforms operated by Civil Defence. The results were collated by communications controllers and provided to the environmental protection agency’s radiation section. All of the physical samples, which were taken by field monitoring teams, were then sent to regional hubs and from there the samples were transported to the Phoenix Training Centre in the Phoenix Park. The majority of the samples were received in Dublin by 6.30 pm. The samples came from as far as Skibbereen in West Cork and Stranorlar in Donegal.

The scale of the response from Civil Defence volunteers is demonstrated in the logistics and timing of the response. From the initial warning received at 8.30 am to full deployment at 9.30 am every County was sampled for soil, grass, and background radiation by 12.10 pm. Following on from the taking of samples all the material had to be transported to Dublin with all physical samples being received by 6.30 pm. In the event of a real emergency the data from this type of sampling will contribute to critical decision-making at national level to ensure appropriate responses are put in place for the protection of the public.