It was around 6.25 am on Wednesday when tragedy struck at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam. A major accident had occurred in the reactor and scientists, fearing radiation leak, alerted the station director. Immediately, the Kalpakkam Emergency Committee consisting of Department of Atomic Energy officials and the Kancheepuram district collector, who is also offsite emergency director, held a meeting. The wind direction was gauged and the possibility of radiation spread to nearby localities analysed.
At 7.30 am, a Grade I alert was sounded by the collector after scientists found the radiation levels to be below 10 millirem (mrem). People in Manamai and Echur villages, which come under Sector-D within the Emergency Planning Zone of 16 km from Kalpakkam DAE Centre, were advised to stay indoors with doors and windows closed. They were also advised to avoid food and water from open sources as Kalpakkam scientists believed they could have been contaminated.
At 10.01 am, a Grade II alert was sounded as the radiation levels had crossed 10 mrem. The villagers were administered Iodate tablets to guard against the possible uptake of radioactive Iodine, which could get released during such an event.
And at 11.13 am, the third alert was sounded. All living being in the villages had to be evacuated. After the villagers were herded into buses, they were taken to a decontamination zone 16 km away from the contaminated area. Firefighters as well as medical authorities were present at the scene. The villagers given a shower and radiation levels were monitored by officials through digital contamination monitor and scintillator. The villagers were then housed in Blessing Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Keerapakkam in Thirukazhukundram.
All this was part of a mock drill at Kalpakkam. “This is part of our bi-annual offsite emergency exercise-2009 to check the preparedness of the district administration and the plan management in meeting any remote emergency situation,” district collector Satosh K Mishra later told newspersons.
The exercise simulates a postulated accident scenario and the police and district officials perform warning and advisory functions in the ‘affected’ villages and symbolically evacuate a small number of villagers and cattle as part of the public awareness and emergency preparedness programme, he said.
Madras Atomic Power Station director K Ramamurthy stressed that there were adequate safety and security mechanisms in and around nuclear installations and this was part of a mock drill to highlight that DAE was taking all precautions to combat any catastrophe arising out such a scenario.
The last such exercise was conducted on August 24, 2007.
Source: Express Buzz