Drill at Daya Bay 'no PR exercise'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 April, 2012, 12:00am

A two-day emergency drill that aims to test the city's ability to respond to a nuclear accident is no public relations show, the security chief says amid criticism that the exercise is ineffective.

The Daya Bay nuclear emergency drill, which began yesterday and continues today, involves more than 1,000 officers from over 30 government departments. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and other top government leaders are among the participants. Green activists who showed up unannounced said the overplanned drill allowed only limited public participation while the assumed scenario was too mild.

'There are no risks and there is no chance of anything going wrong. But this is not the reality,' Greenpeace campaigner Prentice Koo Wai-muk said.

Yesterday, the exercise simulated an accident in the Daya Bay nuclear plant in which some radiation leaks were likely or occurring. The government decided to evacuate all people on Ping Chau, which lies along the northeastern border and is within 20 kilometres of Daya Bay. The decision was relayed by a helicopter crew sent to the island.

About 120 evacuees underwent radiation checks and within two hours were taken from the island by police launches or helicopters to Ma Liu Shiu, where more radiation checks awaited them.

About 2,000 pupils from three secondary schools in Tai Po were ordered to stay indoors.

The exercise was well planned and executed, but for one glitch - the group of Greenpeace activists who turned up on Ping Chau and were denied evacuation.

'I don't know what would have happened if an emergency had really occurred at that moment,' Koo said.

Koo said they saw evacuees being given wrist bells of different colours so that officers could identify who should be taken away by boats or helicopters. Those volunteers were also given food before the drill so that they would not get hungry later.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said officers did not evacuate the activists because they were there to protest. 'We respect their freedom of expression,' he said.

He rejected the activists' allegation that the drill was nothing more than a public relations show, saying all the resources mobilised were the same as those that would be used in a real emergency.

The drill was observed by nuclear-safety experts from the mainland, France, Britain and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.