HIDDEN NUCLEAR AGENDAS
By Nikki Clark
The Government's plan to pursue its nuclear agenda under the auspices of a nuclear new build programme in the UK has singled out Hinkley Point as the first location for attempts at a 'nuclear renaissance'.
EDF, who are 90 per cent owned by the French state, have put in an application to the recently created Infrastructure Planning Commission, for two enormous, 1350MW generation 3 reactors, which are untried, untested designs. These EPR designs have experienced nothing but trouble in Finland, France & China, where projects there are behind schedule and over budget.
Nuclear new build in the UK cannot happen without subsidy from the public purse in the form of insurance liability, the electricity reform act (which will provide a fixed price per unit of electricity) and a floor on the price of a tonne of carbon under the woefully inadequate carbon trading mechanism. This comes on top of the £250 million per year spent over the last 25 years on research and development on how to deal with the legacy waste.
The decisions on nuclear are being challenged - Energy Fair have put in a complaint to the European competition commission which, if upheld, will see an end to nuclear new build in the UK and also the rest of the EU. The two legal challenges brought against the UK government on both the justification decision and the National Policy Statements, have thus far failed to make it to judicial review. This is unsurprising, as the government have been working very hard to reduce uncertainty in processes relating to nuclear new build. All has been designed to give nuclear the 'go-ahead' a smooth and speedy transit through our planning system, and yet despite this things are anything but smooth for the Government and EDF's plans. EDF's timetable here in the UK has already slipped enormously with them being about two years behind schedule and that's before they can begin construction in earnest.
Nuclear's dirty dealings
Legal challenges, the on-going nuclear catastrophe in Fuksuhima, the lack of private finance available for this venture, these are but some of the problems faced by the nuclear barons, with further dirty dealing being exposed constantly. This has ranged from energy company workers running DECC or EDF spying on the environmental movement, through to both conspiring together to suppress events in Fukushima to stop the anti-nuclear movement gaining ground, as was revealed in the Guardian last summer.
The nuclear renaissance is plagued by problems. It's hardly surprising, as nuclear power has never been a sensible proposition for solving environmental problems despite it's being touted as such. Quite the opposite, the 'nuclear renaissance' is a project that will create more problems than it can solve. It's more of a resurrection Frankenstein-style than a Renaissance.
Just last month a report was presented to Parliament that revealed scandalous practice being carried out by both the current and previous UK governments - namely that both of these governments have been making policy-based evidence rather than evidence-based policy. All of this has been done with seeming impunity by both administrations in order to force nuclear new build through parliament and onto a misled public, serving the real agenda of all flavours of government. The real agenda has been hinted at a lot recently with surreptitious plans to replace Trident already underway despite the pretence that Trident is on the back-burner as well as the UK and French collusion to develop more nuclear weapons.
Oak trees threatened
All sites identified for nuclear new build are in the few protected areas that exist in the UK. The Hinkley Point site exists within a mosaic of Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation, Site of Special Scientific Interest, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Internationally recognised and protected wetland. Last year when EDF were applying for permission for preliminary works, the Environmental Statement was nowhere near comprehensive enough, failing to properly account for, understand or assess the interactions between habitats and species on and off the 500 hectare site. The statement failed completely to assess important microbial and fungal species that play such important roles in any ecosystems focusing instead on larger more well-know species.
It seems that UK environmental legislation is nothing but window dressing when any government can go ahead with the most dangerous type of development known to man that will leave intractable wastes for timescales we can't begin to imagine, and not just in one of these places we value so much, but all of them.
This is why activists from South-West Against Nuclear last month braved sub-zero temperatures to defend veteran Oak trees threatened by new nuclear development in the remote Somerset Countryside. The Oaks at Hinkley Point are veteran trees that are approximately 100 - 150 years old, they have that amazing quality of living and dead wood which provides a habitat for the most diverse range of species any indigenous tree in the UK can support. The Oaks here aren't just a few trees in a wider habitat, they are themselves a habitat, they are a living community whose ecological value is such that there is no justifiable reason why they should be removed to make way for a development that is increasingly unlikely to go ahead.
Nationally we really should be questioning the policy of ruining every one of the most important ecological sites remaining in our country in order to satisfy governments voracious appetite for infinite growth on a finite planet.