Sweden launches major nuke accident exercise

Sweden's largest-ever crisis management exercise on how to act in the event of a nuclear accident was launched on Wednesday.

The exercise will last until April and involve some 6,000 people from 70 government and emergency agencies, businesses and police, Helena Lindberg, the

director general of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap – MSB), told reporters Wednesday.

“We have nuclear power in Sweden and have the mission as an authority to make sure we are well prepared, regardless of what happens,” she said.

The exercise scenario started with the simulation of a sudden stop early Wednesday in two of the three nuclear reactors at the OKG nuclear plant in

Oskarshamn, in southeastern Sweden.

It would later include a nuclear waste accident that would force authorities to plan for evacuations and increased communication with the public.

For the simulation, authorities interacted via a fake emergency website which also included fake news reports and concerned citizens posting alarmed comments on the “xbook” and “kvitter” fake social media sites.

“We previously practiced nuclear accident preparedness but we did it during office hours and really just practiced the chain of events … and did not try out how such an accident would affect all sectors of society,” Lindberg said.

“There is always concern because people can’t see or touch radiation. It’s important to practice how to communicate in those cases,” she added.

Sweden’s parliament passed a landmark bill last June allowing the country’s nuclear reactors to be replaced at the end of their life spans instead of simply ending nuclear power when they expire.

However, the exercise launched Wednesday had been in the planning since November 2009, Lindberg said.

It was prompted by a 2007 report by the Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) which found that “government agencies responsible have not ensured … a good level of preparedness for managing the consequences of an accident at a Swedish nuclear power plant.”

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Grounded Finland ferry refloated and heading back to port

UPDATE: A ferry that ran aground next to islands between Finland and Sweden with nearly 430 crew and passengers on board, was refloated and heading for port, its owners said Sunday.

Grounded Finland ferry refloated and heading back to port
The Viking Line ship Grace hit rocks in in the Aland archipelago. Photo AFP

The Viking Line's “Grace” hit rocks on Saturday afternoon while sailing between the Finnish port of Turku and the Swedish capital Stockholm, shortly before a stopover in Mariehamn, in the Aland archipelago, Finland's coast guard said.

The passengers had to spend the night on board, though there was no immediate danger as it was not taking on water. No one was hurt in the incident.

A tug boat helped refloat the ferry in the small hours of Sunday morning, the coast guard said on Twitter.

After disembarking around 260 passengers at Mariehamn, it went on to its home port of Turku in Finland, a Viking Line spokeswoman told AFP Sunday. It would undergo repairs in the coming days, she added.

Although the cause of the accident has yet to be established, the coast guard said there were strong winds in the area at the time.

The company cancelled its Saturday ferry service, which was to have been taken by a smaller vessel, because of a storm warning.

In September, another Viking Line ferry, the Amorella, ran aground on the same Aaland Island and the passengers had to be evacuated.