The Plan

The National Emergency Plan for Nuclear accidents (NEPNA) is designed to ensure that Ireland can respond quickly to any major accident at an overseas nuclear installation which might lead to radioactive contamination reaching Ireland.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has published an information booklet on NEPNA as well as a summary leaflet of the main points.

How would a nuclear accident affect Ireland?

A nuclear accident abroad would not pose any immediate danger to the population of Ireland. Even a major nuclear accident in the UK would be incapable of causing radioactive contamination in Ireland that could instantly harm people.

Any resulting radioactive contamination in Ireland that causes higher radiation doses than normal could result in slight increases in certain types of cancer in the years and decades following a nuclear incident.  However, it is unlikely that any increase in cancer rates would be detectable over current rates.

The severity of that risk would depend on the quantity and the type of radioactive contamination reaching Ireland. The risk could be substantially reduced by minimising radiation exposure to the population.

How radioactivity would reach Ireland

Radioactive material that is released into the atmosphere could be blown over Ireland by the wind, like a plume of smoke from a fire.

The concentration of radioactivity would become more diluted as the plume spread over a greater distance.

Rainfall coinciding with the appearance of a radioactive plume could magnify its impact, by washing radioactive substances down to the ground.

The three routes to radiation exposure

If radioactive contamination were to reach Ireland following a nuclear incident abroad, the population would be exposed via three channels:

  • Through direct external contact with radioactive substances in the air and on the ground
  • By inhaling radioactive substances in the atmosphere
  • By consuming contaminated food or water

How would NEPNA help reduce that exposure?

The central aim of NEPNA is to minimise exposure to radiation.  The plan involves:

Raising the alarm

There are two international early-warning systems, hosted by the IAEA and the EU, in place which would notify the Irish Government instantly of any threat.

Ireland has a bilateral agreement with the UK. Ireland will be informed directly in the event of a nuclear accident in the UK.

The EPA’s 24-hour radiation monitoring network will automatically trigger an alarm if it detects any elevated radiation levels.

Assessing the risk

Meteorologists from Met Éireann will calculate wind speed and direction, and the likelihood of rainfall in any affected part of Ireland. The EPA will assess the potential radiation doses that could occur.

Taking protective actions

If any risk is anticipated, the media will be utilised to alert and advise the public.  In Ireland, the most likely protective actions would be:

  • Instructing people to stay indoors until the radioactive plume has passed over.
  • Restricting the consumption of contaminated food, water and animal feed.

For information and advice on the measures you should take to protect yourself and your family, go to What Do I Do?

Taking long term precautions

After the immediate crisis has subsided, NEPNA will continue to operate for as long as required. In the meantime, you should continue to follow our advice.

In the first few days after the emergency, samples of vegetation, soil and other environmental materials from around the country will be analysed and measured for quantities and types of radioactivity.

Close surveillance will continue for weeks, months, or longer if necessary. The public will be kept fully informed, and advised of any action they need to take to minimise radiation exposure.

There will be close monitoring of livestock and foodstuffs susceptible to radioactive contamination. If necessary, controls and restrictions will be imposed to protect the public from contaminated food.