9 Mar 2009

Nuclear plans: Justifying the unjustifyable

The Nuclear Consultation Group, a group of academics and experts with specialist knowledge on nuclear power and energy have called for the Government to hold an inquiry into the 'Justification' of new reactors.

Photo: taken from The Ecologist magazine

Given that Justification, once finalised, may foreclose on any future discussion on issues crucial to nuclear power, it is vital that this process is opened up in order to allow for meaningful and realistic examination of evidence a public forum. Following the current consultation, the Government proposes to issue a draft decision statement and then hold events with Government officials. These events are not the right way forward - there should be an inquiry into Justification where the evidence can be publicly tested.

I've therefore responded to the consultation process with a line noting: "The Justification of new nuclear power in the UK represents a key issue for trust in governance concerning energy policy and the control of radiation risk. I therefore consider that the Government should hold a full and independent inquiry, as allowed for under the regulations governing Justification: The Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 (No. 1769), Regulation 17."

The campaign group Stop Hinkley has today also supported calls from the group of academics for an inquiry into the issue of 'Justification' for new reactors such as Hinkley C. Here is part of their press release below - the health issues will also feature as part of the discussion in the next Oldbury Power Station Site Stakeholder Group meeting which I sadly can't make.

Currently the government is conducting a public consultation on the balance between advantages of operating nuclear reactors and the disadvantages of linked health effects. But Secretary of State Ed Milliband will decide the outcome despite his public support for nuclear power. Stop Hinkley supports calls for a public inquiry on the issue to allow full scrutiny of the arguments.

Stop Hinkley will be contributing to the consultation and has amassed a wealth of research (1) on the health effects of Hinkley Point discharges on local populations on the coastline near Hinkley and downwind in Burnham-on-Sea. But international evidence is also mounting following the Chernobyl accident in 1986 (2). And routine discharges seem responsible for a doubling of childhood leukaemia near every nuclear power station in Germany, according to a Government sponsored study last year (3).

The German study looks at health effects within five kilometres of Pressurised Water Reactors which are the the same type as is proposed at Hinkley although a different model. The European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) will be the largest nuclear reactor in the world and French energy giant EdF proposes to build two such reactors at the coastal site, which is likely to add to the existing breast cancer and infant mortality which has been found in research Stop Hinkley has commissioned.

Last week Edf officially nominated Hinkley Point as a site under the Government's Site Selection Assessment process.

Once the 'Justification' consultation has been decided by Ed Milliband, the future Infrastructure Planning Commission which conducts local planning inquiries under the Government's new planning laws, will consider the matter dealt with and not allow it to be raised at the local Hinkley Inquiry. Ordinary local people who know nothing of this consultation will have no platform to have a say on their future health risk.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley said: "The Government should do this properly and fairly. There's a clear conflict of interest in Ed Milliband promoting nuclear power in one breath then signing off on this crucial issue which affects the health of Somerset (and for Oldbury - Gloucestershire) residents. Once he makes a judgement the health issue can no longer count in the deliberately short local planning inquiries which are due to follow, which deal with local environmental matters. This is grossly unfair."

(1) http://www.stophinkley.org/Health.htm
(2) www.llrc.org
(3) http://www.stophinkley.org/Health/HlthNews080110C4.htm

See more about actions you can take at: www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/help/actions.php

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