Exercise Astral Bend
On Thursday 13th September 2017, local agencies including Wiltshire Police, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, South Western Ambulance Service and Wiltshire Council conducted a ‘live’ exercise with colleagues from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston called ‘Astral Bend’. This was a full day and took place at MOD Lyneham, and was based around a simulated emergency during the air transport of Special Nuclear Material, which led to a simulated release of radioactive material. Fire trays and smoke generators were used as part of exercise activity to add realism to the scenario.
Exercise Astral Bend 2017 is part of a routine programme of exercises and does not imply any increased likelihood that a real nuclear emergency could occur. There has never been an emergency involving Special Nuclear Material which has led to, or come anywhere near leading to, any release of radioactive material to the environment. The aim of the exercise was to test the MOD response in the extremely unlikely event of an emergency during the air transport of Special Nuclear Material. The response to such an emergency would involve local emergency responders.
In the very unlikely event of a severe emergency involving Special Nuclear Material, which leads to a release of radioactive material to the environment, the principal risk to the public in the vicinity would be from inhalation of airborne radioactive material. Members of the public would be provided with appropriate medical advice from professionals to mitigate any hazard.
The following two days, Wiltshire Police exploited the opportunity presented by the exercise set-up to exercise and train their Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) and recovery process. This ensured a sensible and responsible use of resources meaning that local agencies did not need to fund a separate exercise to test their local capabilities. They were able to use the same facilities that had been provided by AWE for Exercise Astral Bend.