THE POSSIBILITY of a vapour cloud explosion at the site of a proposed incinerator in Ringaskiddy, Cork, must be taken into account and planned for, according to a major emergency officer attached to the HSE.
Peter Daly, chief emergency management officer for the HSE and a former chemical weapons inspector in Iraq, said “credible scenarios” included in the application for the €140 million waste-to-energy plant “must include the possibility of a vapour cloud explosion, which is currently omitted”.
Mr Daly, a Cobh resident and objector to the proposed incinerator, was speaking as a private individual and not for the HSE at an oral hearing into the incinerator.
He referred to huge explosions that took place at the Buncefield oil depot in the UK in December 2005. In the planning process for the oil depot explosions of that scale were not considered to be a “credible scenario”.
“If Buncefield teaches us anything it is that we need to consider a vapour cloud explosion as a credible scenario, and it is worth repeating from the report that the circumstances which led to the event were predictable even if the consequences were not.”
In evidence previously unknown to anti-incinerator campaigners, Mr Daly said distances claimed to be safe by incinerator proposers Indaver would be regarded as well inside the danger zones by public response agencies in the event of an accident.
He said should an accident occur, response agencies would consider whether their staff could be admitted to the danger zone.
“The public safety zone consists essentially of three zones: hot, warm and cold. Distances claimed as safe in the application would be regarded by the public response agencies in emergency response as well inside a PSZ warm circle. The area that they would regard as being in a ‘warm zone’ would be significantly greater than the perimeter of the plant,” Mr Daly said.
A spokesman for Indaver said emergency plans for the facility would be made known locally before incineration begins.
“We are happy to reiterate that any emergency planning aspects of the proposed facility would be co-ordinated with the relevant authorities in advance of operations and communicated locally.
“Everyday operations will meet the highest standards, involving modern technology and qualified personnel to ensure appropriate safety at all times.”
However, Mr Daly said a singular access point to the site for the incinerator also posed problems for the emergency services. “The area is effectively a cul-de-sac with only one entry point, and if that entry point along the Ringaskiddy road is compromised then the public response agencies will be significantly affected, with the potential of very serious consequences.”