Stop Hinkley Press Release

9 November 2009

National Policy Statement on nuclear power

This afternoon (Monday) the Government will announce a draft nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS) as part of a package of six such policy statements around energy issues. It will also publish a draft 'Justification' document as part of an EU process new to nuclear new build. 

The following is part of a succinct Greenpeace briefing (1) on the NPS and the Justification process followed in stages by Stop Hinkley responses and a final summary quote:

Energy National Policy Statements,
3.30pm, November 9, House of Commons

On Monday 9th November 2009, the government will publish six National Policy Statements (NPS) on energy.

Under the Planning Act, NPSs are intended to provide long-term strategic information for nationally significant infrastructure projects. These statements will inform the Infrastructure Planning Commission when individual planning applications are put forward. The 6 NPSs to be published are:

  • Overarching Energy NPS (EN1)
  • Fossil Fuel NPS (EN2)
  • Renewables NPS (EN3)
  • Gas Supply / Pipelines NPS (EN4)
  • Electricity Networks NPS (EN5)
  • Nuclear NPS (EN6)

Two of the key areas will be coal (EN2) and nuclear (EN6). In addition, the government will also be announcing new policy developments in both of these areas. This briefing outlines government coal policy and the different aspects of government plans to "facilitate" new nuclear reactors.

UK New Nuclear Build Policy

Introduction

The Government on Monday will publish a draft Nuclear National Policy Statement (NNPS) and a draft Justification decision. Greenpeace understands that the key aspects of government plans to facilitate new nuclear power are:

  • Draft Nuclear National Policy Statement (including the Strategic Siting Assessment)

  • Draft Justification

  • Generic Design Assessment

  • Funded Decommissioning Programme and a Fixed Unit Price for waste disposal

  • Managing Radioactive Waste Safely

Draft Nuclear National Policy Statement (NNPS) [including Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)]

  • The Planning Act allows an NNPS to set out the government's policy support for more nuclear power stations. Once the NPS is officially "designated" it will rule out discussion on the issues it covered during the planning application stage that will follow.

  • It is likely the NNPS will include a statement of "national need" for new nuclear.

  • The NNPS is a way of formalising government policy so as to inform planning.

  • The NNPS must include reference to the Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

  • The SEA will be published as part of the draft NNPS. It must explain how Government has met the EU directive's requirements on the SEA for new build.

  • The consultation on the draft NNPS will contain an assessment of the list of sites deemed suitable for new reactors and how they meet the SSA criteria.

  • It may be amended and a final list of agreed sites will be published in the final NNPS.

  • Potential developers whose sites are included in the final NNPS can then apply for planning permission from the Infrastructure Planning Commission to build reactors.

  • Designation of the NNPS will take place after the consultation and a period of parliamentary scrutiny. This is likely to take place mid-2010, after the General Election.

Response: Stop Hinkley does not believe there is a national need for nuclear power. The Powry report commissioned by Greenpeace last year demonstrated that the UK could provide all its electricity needs without resort to nuclear, while abating greenhouse gases and with a big increase in the use of a variety of renewables. German studies have also shown that renewables can provide 'base load' electricity when intelligently planned.

The Sustainable Development Commission said that replacing all our nuclear generation would reduce carbon emissions by a mere eight percent compared to using coal power stations. Other cleaner, safer forms of generation could perform better coupled with effective energy conservation policies (2).

We disagree with the Infrastructure Planning Commission route to deciding such important planning decisions: the quango structure is less democratic and more superficial than the public inquiry system, not allowing for cross examination of industry and Government experts. The 1988-89 Hinkley C public inquiry flushed out the real costs of nuclear power, forcing the Thatcher Government to abandon plans to build Hinkley C despite it achieving planning consent in the inquiry.

Justification

  • Justification is a regulatory requirement for new practices under EU law - it must be done before reactors can be approved.

  • Justification is based on radiological protection principles. No practice involving exposure to ionising radiation should be allowed unless it produces benefits to individuals or society that outweigh the health detriment it may cause.

  • The process is a strategic, high-level assessment of the supposed advantages (economic, environmental and societal) and possible health detriments.

  • Government will publish a draft decision, followed by a final decision in early 2010 (after a period of public consultation). It is expected before the General Election.

  • The Justifying Authority for new nuclear is the Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. His views are meant to be independent and unbiased.

  • The Justification process has never been applied before, in advance, for new nuclear reactors in the UK .

  • The Government has powers to allow for an inquiry as part of the Justification process.

Response : Many studies, including those we have commissioned, have shown health risks to those living near nuclear reactors. Somerset Health authority showed an increase in childhood leukaemia in West Somerset, echoed last year by the German Government KIKK study which showed a doubling of childhood leukaemia within five kilometres of every German nuclear power station with a reducing effect up to ten kilometres (six miles) (3).

Burnham-on-Sea at five miles from Hinkley suffers a doubling of breast cancer mortality, according to our expert, Prof Chris Busby, and coastline communities from Hinkley to Burnham have a three-fold increase in infant mortality and a six-fold increase in neo-natal deaths (4)

A Government sponsored study of childhood leukaemia near nuclear plants used huge 25 kilometre radiuses around the plants including large centres of populations which would have diluted the numbers of leukaemia cases much closer in distance and in more thinly populated areas. The COMARE study included cases in Taunton , Wells and Minehead when no-one had been claiming high leukaemia rates at those distances from Hinkley Point (5). 

The error made by radiation-risk officials is to extrapolate the health risk of Hiroshima survivors to those chronically exposed to low-level radiation downwind and downstream of nuclear power stations. When acknowledged clusters show up eg at Chepstow near Oldbury as well as Sellafield, Burghfield, Dounray and Rosythe, the official response is that the radiation levels are too low and these are chance occurrences. They don't get the fact that low levels of radiation can and do harm people.

We call for a public inquiry into the Justification of new nuclear power. We do so on the grounds that the Secretary of State who will decide the matter is legally bound to be unbiased, while Ed Milliband has openly shown his fervent support for nuclear power and is also in a relationship with an executive of RWE, a nuclear company wishing to build in the UK.

Besides draft Justification and the NNPS announcements on Monday, below is the current position of the other areas the government is working on to support new nuclear power:

Generic Design Assessment (GDA)

  • Also known as pre-licensing, GDA considers technical aspects of reactor designs ahead of licensing and site-specific planning approval. It is not legally binding.

  • GDA is being undertaken by Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) of the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.

  • The process began in August 2007 and will not be completed until 2011.

  • Two designs are being assessed - the EdF / Areva EPR (European Pressurised Water Reactor) and the Westinghouse AP-1000.

  • The NII has said that neither design is expected to get a "clean" design acceptance confirmation at the end of the GDA process.

  • There are flaws with the designs being considered. For instance the nuclear regulators ( UK , French and Finnish) have asked Areva to make changes to the design of the EPR's control and instrumentation system.

  • It is expected that a number of such issues will be left unresolved and carried over into the subsequent licensing process as either exclusions or conditions.

  • Developers will be expected to resolve exclusions and conditions during the legally binding licensing process that follows GDA.

Response: The UK nuclear safety regulators have joined with their French and Finnish colleagues in criticising the design of the reactor slated for Hinkley C. They have called for the crucial control and instrumentation system to be scrubbed and replaced (6). The European Pressurised Reactor in Finland has been subject scores of regulatory complaints.

With another reactor design by Westinghouse, potentially destined for Oldbury, they have said the containment building could astonishingly be destabilised by high winds and its new high pressure pumping units have not been sufficiently researched.

Funded Decommissioning Programme & Fixed Unit Price

  • The Energy Act 2008 creates a framework for the arrangements that operators of new nuclear power stations must put in place so that they meet the full costs of decommissioning and the full share of their waste management and disposal costs.

  • An indicative Fixed Unit Price for waste disposal is expected to be available by mid-2010 and will provide a price for final waste disposal in over 100 years time.

  • Government has created the Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board which will provide advice on the suitability of an operator's waste and decommissioning financing arrangements and any subsequent modifications to them.

Response: Nuclear companies have been baulking at the price being considered by the Government for High Level Waste management. It is impossible to forecast how long the waste will last before leaking into the environment from a Deep Geological Repository and how much a future society would have to pay to remedy such a disaster. The Obama administration in has pulled the funding for its Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, signalling a major collapse in confidence in the approach to nuclear waste management echoed by a recent German scandal over lies told to the public over waste dump safety.

Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme

  • Waste disposal comes under the auspices of MRWS programme, overseen by Department of Energy and Climate Change.

  • The aim of MRWS is to establish a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for radioactive wastes - including spent fuel from new reactors. Finding a site for the GDF is based on the principle of voluntarism.

  • The process of finding a volunteer community - with suitable geology to house legacy and new build wastes - is still very much in its infancy.

  • To date only one area ( West Cumbria ) has expressed an interest. This is the region where plans for a deep geological repository were rejected in 1996 (following the NIREX inquiry).

  • Even if the GDF is built by the earliest estimated date (2045) new build waste will probably not be placed in it until 2125-2145. It is proposed that until this date highly radioactive spent fuel will be stored at reactor sites around the UK .

  • Current estimates for the cost of the GDF vary from £12bn to £18bn.

  • Greenpeace believe the government still has no environmentally acceptable solution to the problem of dealing with radioactive wastes. There is no guarantee that a GDF will ever be built.

Response: The Government promised that the problem of nuclear waste would be resolved before new build can go ahead. But progress is very slow on volunteer communities taking up the lucrative incentives for hosting a repository. Moreover the technical questions raised by the last Government committee on the issue have not been resolved or even researched (7).

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Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley said : "There are a host of reasons to challenge the nuclear policy statement from our simply not needing nuclear power to the undemocratic and superficial planning system that is being foisted on us. And we call for a public inquiry into the Justification issue through which nuclear new build and its health effects should be thoroughly scrutinised. A truly independent examination of the local effects of radiation should be enough to scupper the nuclear project. Ed Milliband cannot claim to have that independence."

"There are several conditions upon which new nuclear pivots. Resolving the thorny nuclear waste problem is one and looks nowhere near resolution. The concerned public should be confident there are several fronts where new nuclear power is weak and can be challenged."

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator

Notes:

  1. Full Greenpeace briefing: http://www.stophinkley.org/EngRevu\NPSnukes&coal briefing6NOV2009.pdf

  2. Nuclear Power Won't Fix It: Sustainable Development Commission, 2006 http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/presslist.php/51/nuclear-power-wont-fix-it

  3. Channel 4 News report on German leukaemia study http://www.stophinkley.org/Health/HlthNews080110C4.htm

  4. Western Daily Press / BBC Points West report on infant deaths study: http://www.stophinkley.org/NewsPages/news080301.htm

  5. The incidence of childhood leukaemia in the vicinity of nuclear installations, Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE): http://www.comare.org.uk/press_releases/comare_pr10.htm

  6. Financial Times & other articles, 4th Nov 2009 http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/news/daily09/daily.php?dailynewsid=307

  7. Experts doubt nuclear disposal plans, Professional Engineering, 4th Nov 09 http://www.profeng.com/archive/archive+2009/2219/22190002.htm

 

Stop Hinkley Logo

Notes:

  1. Full Greenpeace briefing:

  2. Nuclear Power Won't Fix It: Sustainable Development Commission, 2006

  3. Channel 4 News report on German leukaemia study

  4. Western Daily Press / BBC Points West report on infant deaths study:

  5. The incidence of childhood leukaemia in the vicinity of nuclear installations, Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE):

  6. Financial Times & other articles, 4th Nov 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page Updated 22-Jan-2011