Western Morning News, 14 March 2007

A plan to dump hundreds of tonnes of radioactive waste at the Westcountry's only nuclear power station, Hinkley Point on the Somerset coast, emerged yesterday just as experts on flooding warned the station was at risk from sea level rises and storm surges.

The proposal is to build a 24,000 square metre bunker at the decommissioned Hinkley A power station to house low-level waste for centuries. Dismantled machinery, plant rubble, contaminated equipment and clothing from the station would be kept on the site.

British Nuclear Group, which manages the site near Bridgwater, will submit a report on the project to Somerset County Council later this month. The company said no definite decision had been taken, although a planning application could be submitted later this year.

Jim Duffy, of anti-nuclear group Stop Hinkley, said he had supported an intermediate store at Hinkley as a stop-gap, but could not support permanent low-level disposal on the site.

"From our point of view, we need to draw a line in the sand somewhere. We have said OK to intermediate waste but don't really want to see any expansion of waste storage. I think the whole site really looks set to expand if the industry and Government get their way," he said.

The warning on flooding has come from scientists at the Flood Hazard Research Centre based at Middlesex University , who said that Hinkley Point was not a suitable site for a new nuclear reactor.

The scientists issued the warning after examination of four existing nuclear sites considered likely to be earmarked as possible locations for new nuclear power reactors.

As well as Hinkley Point, they also looked at Dungeness in Kent , Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex . All the sites are on the coast because of the need for a nuclear power station to be in an isolated location with a plentiful supply of cooling water. But the location can put the stations at risk of flooding.

Hinkley Point is defended by a sea wall, which the scientists said was already breached during some storm conditions. The team from Middlesex University warned that a rise in sea levels could "add significant additional stress to the power station's defence structures".

Dr Lorraine McFadden from Middlesex Flood Hazard Research Centre said: "It is hard to escape the conclusion that the most sensible approach would be to reject all nuclear new-build within the dynamic coastal environment."

Nathan Argent, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "This report is yet another nail in the coffin for Blair's deluded nuclear policy. With the catastrophic effect that sea level rise will wreak upon nuclear sites - not least economically - it now looks more likely that the industry faces a burial at sea."

British Energy, which operates Hinkley Point, said that research carried out by the Met Office had confirmed that none of the energy giant's nuclear sites would be prevented from housing new nuclear generation as a result of sea level rises.


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