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    Battles for nuclear power plants: The fear of radiation is back

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    Since February 24, Inge Paulini’s employees have been a lot busier than usual. Mails, letters, phone calls with many, many questions. “The war in Ukraine has made people more aware of the risk of a nuclear accident,” says the President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

    The Russian president’s threats of a nuclear strike, the fighting over the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the discussion about extending operation of the last German nuclear power plants – discussions about the dangers and benefits of nuclear power have been making a comeback for months. As is the fear of nuclear radiation.

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    This emerges from a study by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, which was presented on Thursday at the Ministry of the Environment in Berlin. According to this, 63 percent of the 2,000 respondents are very concerned that an accident involving radioactive contamination could occur. Older people and women in particular are afraid of an accident. “The many inquiries show that there is a great deal of uncertainty,” says Paulini.

    Where knowledge is lacking, we must close the gaps.

    Christian Kuehn

    In fact, much of the population appears unprepared for a nuclear emergency. “Only two out of ten people know how to behave in a nuclear emergency,” says Christian Kühn, State Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment. The study, which was carried out for the second time after 2019, is therefore an order for the federal government, according to the Greens politician. “Where there is a lack of knowledge, we have to close the gaps,” says Kühn.

    The majority thinks Germany is unprepared

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    However, when it comes to imparting knowledge, government agencies in particular seem to have some catching up to do. 75 percent of those surveyed do not consider Germany to be prepared for a nuclear accident, and only 13 percent of those surveyed stated that they wanted to obtain information from public authorities such as local authorities, the Ministry of the Environment or the Office for Radiation Protection in an emergency. “This is a clear mandate to the federal, state and local governments to further improve their own information offerings,” warned Paulini.

    However, the traffic light coalition does not seem to have planned any specific projects for this. Events and communication via social media and online will be adjusted, said Kühn only. “It will not be a one-time action,” it is a permanent task, said the State Secretary.

    Green politician Christian Kühn sees potential for improvement in communication in the event of a crisis.
    © dpa / Bernd von Jutrczenka

    Usually it is very fundamental questions that concern the population. At the beginning of the war, many people in Germany wanted to know whether they should take iodine tablets, Inge Pauline reported. 190 million iodine tablets were procured and stored by the state. However, these would only be distributed by the authorities in the event of a nuclear accident. “Iodine tablets should only be taken if there is a risk of radioactive iodine,” said the President of the Office for Radiation Protection.

    Paulini made another recommendation in the event of a radiological emergency: “If a radioactive cloud actually occurs (…) it is important to stay inside. Lock doors and windows to reduce the chance of inhaling radioactivity,” says Paulini.

    However, crisis communication between government agencies and the population is particularly important. “It’s about finding out first and then acting,” said Paulini. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection has the initial facts. There are more than 1,700 measuring points in Germany, and the systems in the Ukraine are also accessible, says Paulini. Here, too, the burden on her colleagues has increased: “Since February 24, the situation has been monitored around the clock.”

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    Source: Tagesspiegel

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