PLANS are being put in place to cut the number of people given tablets to combat the effects of a leak from the ageing Hunterston power station.

Currently residents living within 2.4km of the plant are provided with potassium iodate pills which should be taken to combat harmful radiation in the event of a nuclear emergency.

But the News can reveal this will be cut to just a 1km radius of the site - if council chiefs adopt a new recommendation from operators EDF.

The proposal has been labelled 'ridiculous' by local community campaigner Rita Holmes, who believes the 'emergency zone' should be widened not reduced.

She says it should include Largs and Fairlie as 'radiation know no boundaries'.

Mrs Holmes, who is chair of the Hunterston site stakeholders group, said: "It makes sense to have a bigger distribution of the tablets. A distance of just 1km is ridiculous.

"This is my personal opinion - unfortunately the quarterly Hunterston site stakeholders group has been cancelled this month because of the general election so we are not even getting the opportunity to discuss it.

"Unfortunately by the time the next meeting comes around in March, the decision will already have been taken."

West Kilbride councillor Todd Ferguson, who also sits on the Hunterston site stakeholders group, said: "The council is currently in consultation with Public Health England in relation to EDF's recommendations and they are also consulting with those residents within the current 2.4km zone. A report will go to North Ayrshire Cabinet in January to make a decision whether to agree to the limits proposed by EDF.

"We will need to be assured of EDF’s argument before granting any approval of their plans.”

A spokeswoman for EDF Energy said: “This updated legislation relates to every nuclear site in the UK and is not specific to Huntertson B.

"The advice given to North Ayrshire, is based on robust information and the minimum distance recommended reflects the advice previously given to the official nuclear regulators. The final decision on the zone rests with the local authority, which will consider this report alongside other local factors.”

At present there are a total of 41 houses in the 2.4km zone.

The EDF spokeswoman added: "It is completely incorrect to suggest that EDF Energy is urging North Ayrshire Council to reduce its emergency planning zone.

"The changes to legislation are a UK wide change initiated by the UK government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and affects all nuclear sites across the UK.

"All local authorities with a nuclear facility in their area are making similar considerations. It’s not isolated to Hunterston and is not related in any way to graphite.

"It is accepted by BEIS and ONR that there is no change to the risk profile at any nuclear site across the UK."

Andrew Fraser, Head of Service at North Ayrshire Council, said: “The emergency zone is an area around a nuclear facility which requires detailed plans to be prepared.

“Historically this area was determined by the Office of Nuclear Regulation and is currently delineated by a 2.4km circle around the nuclear facility.

“New regulations for 2019 makes it the council’s responsibility to set the boundary of the zone around Hunterston A and B.

“We have to determine the zone on the basis of EDF’s recommendations as contained in their Consequences Report. They recommend 1km for Hunterston B.

“We can go beyond the operator’s recommendations if there is clear justification based on factors detailed in the regulations.

“To help inform this, we are consulting with Public Health England, Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards as well as those who live within the current 2.4km zone.

“The consultation responses will help inform whether there is a case to go beyond the 1km recommended by EDF and a subsequent report will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet in January to agree the zone."

Dr Joy Tomlinson, Joint Director of Public Health (Interim), said: “In line with current requirements, nuclear power plants such as Hunterston must have plans describing how they would deal with a radiological incident to protect the public. One of the recognised counter measures is the use of stable iodine tablets.

“NHS Ayrshire & Arran fully supports North Ayrshire Council’s consultation process.”