Residents within a 20 km radius from the nuclear power plant Jaslovske Bohunice were shaking in their shoes yesterday around 5pm when a nuclear warning siren wailed out suddenly without prior notice.
The emergency services number 112 and police emergency number 158 were soon frozen as people tried to find out if they should run for their lives or if it was just a false alarm. This kind of siren should only go off if there is some general public threat, but luckily this time round it was due to a mistake while the warning system at the plant was being serviced.
Jana Burdova, spokeswoman for Slovenske elektrarne, which owns and operates the nuclear power plant, informed that a new system of 330 sirens was being upgraded and that instead of a silent alarm an audible one was set off. The contractor will have to explain off the mistake to the management of the power producer, which is 66% owned by Italian energy giant Enel.
The incident is to be investigated also by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (UJD), but this latest incident could stop people from reacting appropriately next time, when the nuclear threat might be for real. In general, most people hearing a warning siren don’t react, thinking it must just be some kind of test.
This then raises the question as to how quickly the state can notify people about some nuclear accident, and if the measures in place are sufficient.The emergencu services number have been blocked and inaccessible several times over the past few months, so it can hardly be relied on. The sirens themselves can only be heard up to 21 km, so bad luck for the rest of us who are more distant.
Slovakia claims that its nuclear power plants Jaslovske Bohunice and Mochovce are secure and have passed all necessary safety tests, but surely the Japanese were even more sure about the standard of their nuclear power plants than the old Soviet VVER-440 reactors that Slovakia boasts.
People might now at least start taking the threat of a nuclear disaster more seriously, so maybe it is time to start digging those bunkers and stocking up on tins of baked beans.