18 Jan 2010

Nuclear: how to take part in consultations

Much happening locally re nuke stuff - first though petition to sign at: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NuclearNo/

I should also point to the Stop Hinkley website here with news, actions and more plus see the local site re Oldbury here - indeed the photo is a mock up from that site about how it could look with the planned cooling towers.

Well various consultations are going on at the moment, but I have to say much of the process baffles me.

The Government has launched consultations on its Draft National Policy Statements on Energy Infrastructure – including one on nuclear power – and on the Proposed Regulatory Justification decisions on new nuclear power stations. Both consultations close on 22nd February 2010. The draft National Policy Statements are also subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. For more information see: www.nuclear-nps-events.info/home.aspx

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has already called for written evidence to help it determine whether the energy NPSs are fit for purpose - but they wont take account of submissions made before Friday January 15th!! Too late for that then.

However oral hearings have started with many having already given evidence: the Royal Town Planning Institute, Town and Country Planning Association, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has also arrange meetings around the country to consult - but these have faced a barrage of criticism for the way they have been organised.

There is also a huge amount of material to read in order to understand what is being proposed. Greenpeace has calculated that the average concerned individual living near one of the ten proposed nuclear sites would need to read more pages than War and Peace – and that is just to respond to the Nuclear NPS. This cannot be considered a real consultation but then we know the whole process is flawed in so many ways - see previous comments on nuke consultation here.

The excellent No2 Nuclear Power website notes Hugh Ellis, Chief Planner at the Town and County Planning Association told MPs on the Select Committee that the government has failed to engage with the public on the NPSs. He said: “It is creating an environment of suspicion”.

Help with consultations

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities have published two briefings – one on the NPS consultation and one on the Justification consultation. Stop Hinkley also have excellent templates - see here. I am starting to put my thoughts together......it is important.....

Under the Planning Act 2008 the Nuclear NPS consultation is basically the last chance to challenge the principle that new nuclear reactors should be built, and that these reactors should be permitted to generate nuclear waste. It looks likely that, as things stand at the moment, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will be simply told that the strategic question of whether nuclear waste should be disposed of in a geological repository has already been decided and that any planning application for a geological disposal facility only needs to be examined with regard to local planning issues. This is outrageous.

Locally we have seen Northavon MP Steve Webb meet with representatives from the IPC, which is the new body that will decide on any future nuclear developments. He is quoted saying: "After my discussions with the Infrastructure Planning Commission it has become clear to me that the process of consultation over a new nuclear power plant risks baffling us all. There are pre-application consultations, exhibitions and debates, preliminary public meetings and full public hearings, all over a period of more than two years. We have to give our views to the nuclear power company, to the council, to the Government and to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. It is vital that there is real clarity so that people who feel strongly about these issues know when and how they can have their say."

At the moment people living near the Oldbury site are being encouraged to respond to the Department for Energy and Climate Change's consultation on the National Policy Statement for Energy Infrastructure as mentioned above. It was this document which listed Oldbury as a preferred site and it is this consultation that will guide the IPC when it makes its decisions.

However separate to the government's consultation, E.ON, the energy company that wants to build a new station at Oldbury, will also be carrying out its own consultation with residents, but this is not expected until the end of 2011.

Meanwhile Stroud's David Drew MP - an advocate and campaigner for nuclear - has also expressed concerns re the NPS process. He has signed an Early Day Motion (EDM 545) last week that notes concern "that the current scrutiny process does not appear to adhere fully to the Government's commitments made earlier this year during debate on the Planning Bill; regrets that the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee's simultaneous scrutiny of all five NPSs has been compressed into an inordinately limited timescale that overlaps with the public consultation period.... and calls on the Government to reconsider whether the current
process provides the full and proper parliamentary scrutiny process to which such crucial documents should be subjected."

Lastly I came across this article which I enjoyed by Johathan Porritt from December saying it is time to renew the fight against nuclear - see here. In the article he posed a number of questions - here are some of them:

Who is going to hold to account politicians and industry leaders for whom secrecy remains the default mindset?

Who is going to expose the near-fraudulent accounting practices endemic within the nuclear industry that continue to blind people to the true economic costs and penalties involved in nuclear power?

Who is going to interrogate the philosophical and moral implications of one generation imposing on the next a set of problems and security hazards for which they themselves have absolutely no solution?

And who is going to take on those sincere but utterly misguided environmentalists who’ve “gone nuclear” over the last few years because they feel there’s no alternative?

Nuke design consultation

Lastly I have just been contacted by the Environment Agency who are currently involved in the Generic Design Assessment process (a process which has lasted 3 years) - during which they have examined the proposed two reactor designs from an environmental perspective. They plan to complete their assessment and hope to consult on findings - I have been invited to one of their planned seminars but at this point am unsure about the value of going along. We'll see but do please contact me if anyone reading this is interested.

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