An Taisce Welcomes Public Consultation UK Hinkley Point C, Nuclear Power Plant
The Government has today launched public consultations on the UK’s Hinkley Point C, nuclear power station, 5 years after it should have under UN Conventions. The UK Government are building a nuclear power station, Hinkley Point C, on the north coast of Somerset, some 150 miles (~242 km) from Ireland’s East Coast.
Charles Stanley-Smith, An Taisce's Communication Officer stated “These consultations have been hard won through court cases and escalation to the compliance committees of two UNECE conventions on consultation rights and obligations. This is the hard work of An Taisce, The Environmental Pillar and Friends of the Irish Environment and German MEP Ms Sylivia Kotting-Uhl”
He continued "The peoples' rights to these consultations will become increasingly important in our ability to address transboundary impacts of UK projects on our environment, health and economy, into the future. Under UN Conventions, the peoples of neighbouring countries that could be affected by a project need to be consulted. Post Brexit, we may not be able to rely on EU law to safeguard us, but these are UN conventions For instance, the Irish people will now need to be consulted in terms of any other 5 proposed nuclear power station on the UK’s west coast”
Charles Stanley-Smith continued “An Taisce welcomes this Consultation and we would like like to encourage people to participate, in this consultation which is being organised through the Local Authorities across the country. The deadline for your submissions is 17th April 2018”
An Taisce challenged the planning permission and lack of transboundary consultation in the UK Courts [Note 1]. Then along with The Environmental Pillar and Friends of the Irish Environment, they continued their challenge through the compliance mechanisms of the relevant international conventions governing consultation on transboundary impacts. The committees responsible for compliance with the conventions have been robust in upholding the interests of the public.
Following the recommendations of one of these committees, a further round of consultation by the UK on Hinkley Point C happened between July and October last year. In those cases Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands facilitated their public being consulted. Irish eNGOs escalated their concern about the further failure by Ireland to provide for consultation during that period with the Irish public. This resulted in the committee writing to the Irish Government and invited Ireland to uphold the rights of the Irish public to be consulted. This is now finally happening in this extended round of consultation, commencing on Feb 20th, 2018. [Note 2]
We suggest some considerations the public could make in their submission:
- The discounted economic loss to Ireland of an accident in a plant like Hinkley Point C being ‘conservatively’ estimated by the ESRI in a 2016 report [Note 3] as €161 billion ( scenario 4) ;
- The serious deficits in the climatic modelling which the UK used in the UK’s assessment of the potential transboundary impacts in the event of an accident; [Note 4]
- The lack of emergency response planning in Ireland to deal with such an incident to protect the public; The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, (RPII) in its 2013 report [Note 5] on the Radiological impacts of the proposed UK plants in Ireland, produced after the UK granted permission assumed the impacts to Irish people can be mitigated against by sheltering indoors, but fail to address basic considerations and practicalities of the feasibility of such mitigation given issues like the contamination of our largely uncovered water supply.
- The effect on Ireland’s agriculture could be devastating. If an event was to occur in April for example when all the winter fodder is exhausted, new silage can’t be made, and animals would need to be kept inside without food or water. The extent of Insurance coverage in place in the event of an accident is also controversial. The estimates for compensation seem entirely unrealistic in the context of the costs incurred in Fukishima, and even then there is a significant shortfall to be met by a UK Government who will be struggling in the aftermath of a serious Nuclear event.
- There are additional risks now consequent on Brexit. Currently we can rely on the controls associated with a number of EU Directives, and key EU principles regarding the polluter pays and the precautionary principal which underpin these directives set out in the EU treaties. Amendments are being drafted for the House of Lords debate on the Great Withdrawl Bill may or may not serve to adequately address these principals in the post-Brexit UK legislative codes. The extent of parliamentary oversight to changes in UK legislation post Brexit has already been acknowledged to be a hugely controversial issue, given the extent of powers being granted to amend legislation by regulation in the bill.
- Also as part of Brexit the UK proposes to withdraw from the EURATOM treaty, which is concerned with a number of matters including Nuclear Waste and safety. The implications of this are entirely unclear.
- Serious technical issues have become apparent with the design for the reactor pressure vessel proposed for use in Hinkley which have become apparent in Flamanville in France.
 History of Court Cases
- Development Consent Order for Hinkley Point C was granted on 19th March 2013.
- An Taisce on learning of the Secretary of State’s decision, mounted a Judicial Review challenge against the decision in the court of England and Wales, taking the matter all the way to the Supreme Court who ultimately ruled against.
- An Taisce has sought a reference to the EU Court of Justice, (CJEU), to clarify the proper interpretation of Article 7 of the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, (2011/92/EU) regarding the test for transboundary impacts, in light of the two UNECE Conventions which underpinned this article.
- The UK Supreme Court refused the appeal on paper stating that the CJEU had already ruled on the matter.
- Subsequently Friends of the Irish Environment, (FIE), supported by An Taisce made a complaint to the implementation committee of one of these conventions The UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context” (the Espoo Convention),and also by a German Member of Parliament, Ms Sylivia Kotting-Uhl, and other complaints were also made to the Compliance Committee of the UNECE
- These committees ultimately found the UK to be non-compliant with its consultation obligations in respect of Hinkley Point C.
 Details of Consultation Notice in Irish Times 20/02/2018 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WthkQa7RIEtMNkzFPN9l4dwDEz3aH4yR/view?usp=sharing
 ESRI in a 2016 report - https://www.esri.ie/pubs/BKMNEXT313.pdf#page=5
 Professor John Sweeney's Assessment
Professor John Sweeney assessed the assessment and reports the UK prepared under Article 37 of the EURATOM treaty and which the UK relied up on in determining its view on the potential for transboundary impacts from HInkley Point C in the event of an accident. Below he has provided a brief summary of his technical report, with a very stark and strong conclusion regarding the confidence on the competence of key elements of the Article 37 submission.
“Summary of Hinkley Concerns
- The risk of extreme meteorological events coinciding with an accident occurring at Hinkley are calculated on an unsound basis. The weather database used to estimate e.g. an event which might occur e.g. once in 10,000 years cannot be calculated with any confidence from the short run of data used by the Hinkley proposers. The statistical basis for this is further undermined by the fact that climate changes are currently underway in both the UK and Ireland which render reliance on a short historical climate database unsound.
- Similar concerns arise when calculating water levels at this coastal site. Existing tide gauges indicate sea level is rising all along the south coast of England. Current estimates are that sea level will continue to rise into the 22nd Century at least, with ultimate rises of several metres likely. The effect of this requires to be incorporated in any extreme water level calculation and certainly making estimates for the 1:10,000 year event is not statistically valid.
- Uncertainty exist as regards future storm surge changes. Combined with sea level rise this poses additional risks which are not handled using the precautionary principle by the Hinkley proposers. Water level considerations are crucial since spent fuel is to be stored for over a century at this coastal site.
- The dispersion model used dates from 1981 and several caveats to its use have been made by its original author. These caveats are particularly relevant to the site and situation of Hinkley Point and do not appear to have been considered adequately in the report.
- Any dispersion model based on progressive dilution downwind does not adequately consider meteorological conditions conducive to long range transport of a pollution plume in an undispersed state. Chernobyl exemplified this, resulting in serious implications for Irish upland farming. The worst case outcomes for Ireland are therefore not adequately considered in the dispersion modelling used.
- Ireland, unlike France and the Channel Islands, was excluded from any accident impact assessment. The Irish coast and the Channel Islands are equidistant from Hinkley and only slightly further than the nearest point on the French Coast. This raises issues of confidence about the extent to which the report can be considered competent. “
 RPII 2013 Report - http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/radiation/RPII_Proposed_Nuc_Power_Plants_UK_13.pdf
About An Taisce
An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.