PORTLAND residents might want to be careful when throwing away junk mail coming through the letterbox. They could regret it in the case of a nuclear emergency.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council are overseeing the distribution of information booklets to 4,300 people in Portland, advising homeowners what they should do in the event of a radiation emergency in Portland Port.

The homes concerned are those that lie within a 2km radius of berths to be visited by Royal Navy nuclear submarines.

Emergency planning officer John New will be delivering the booklets over the coming days. They give advice such as stay indoors, stay tuned to local media and don't use the telephone unless it is an emergency.

They also suggest that an evacuation would be a last resort, but provide a list of essentials to pack just in case.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council information services manager Peter Gilmour said: "We advise people to read it and keep it somewhere safe. It's important to the public to keep them informed of what action to take in the unlikely event of an accident arising.

"It's part of an overall plan that we have put together with the county council, Ministry of Defence and other agencies which we were obliged to do by the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001. All of this is covered by the MoD and at no cost for the council tax payer."

The berths at Portland are what are known as 'Z berths' as opposed to 'X berths', meaning they will accommodate nuclear-powered submarines but not submarines armed with nuclear weapons.

While the reality of a nuclear emergency is an extremely remote possibility, the MoD, and the councils have had to take emergency planning measures.

These include a detailed emergency plan and a test exercise to be held on April 13. If the procedures are approved, the port could be welcoming' nuclear subs as soon as this summer.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Guy Boswell said: "We will let people know when the submarines are in the area but, for obvious reasons, we will probably give them a day's notice at most."

  • Don't dump these submarines on us!

A PORTLAND resident is accusing local authorities of failing to stand up to the Ministry of Defence over the return of nuclear submarines to Portland Port.

Christine Vincent, 64, of Reap Lane, believes Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and Dorset County Council should have done more to let those against the submarines have their opinions heard.

She said: "The MoD dumped the nuclear submarines on Portland and they just accepted it. The people should have been consulted - it's in their back yard. We have not got the facilities to deal with nuclear submarines and all our property prices are going to go down."

The authorities claim they had no input into the decision.

Simon Parker, county emergency planning officer, said: "We don't really have a say in it at all, we just have to get on with it. The MoD are entitled to put them where they like. From our point of view it's a requirement to do the off-site planning for them."

But Mrs Vincent said: "I have been speaking to other people and they feel the same way. They are voted in to represent the people to do what they think. It's just not good enough.

"They should have said there should be a public inquiry."

Mr Parker responded: "The contractual regulations are between the MoD and Portland Port, there isn't a consultation process for them to go through.

"A presentation was made to the councillors about the fact they were coming back and there didn't seem to be any particular issues about them coming in."