An Taisce challenges ‘unlawful’ UK Nuclear Decision in London High Court

5th December 2013
Press Release

An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland challenges ‘unlawful’ UK Nuclear Decision in London High Court

An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland – will go to the High Court in London on Thursday December 5th 2013 for the start of a two-day hearing to challenge the legality of the UK’s decision to grant permission to build and operate a new, two-reactor nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, 150 miles from the Irish coast.

Law firm Leigh Day, acting for An Taisce, is challenging the decision by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, claiming he acted unlawfully in granting ‘development consent’ by failing to consult the Irish people about the potential trans-boundary effects of the nuclear power station.

Such a consultation is required by Article 7 of the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, the UK’s own regulations, and international conventions such as the Espoo Convention and Aarhus Convention, to which Ireland and the UK are party. These conventions specify obligations in respect of consultation on the trans-boundary effects of projects, and on public participation.

The European Union adopted its Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments (known as the EIA Directive) in 1985. The EIA Directive states:

“Development consent for public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment should be granted only after an assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of those projects has been carried out.”

Article 7 of the EIA Directive states:

“Where a Member State is aware that a project is likely to have significant effects on the environment in another Member State or where a Member State likely to be significantly affected so requests, the Member State in whose territory the project is intended to be carried out shall send to the affected Member State as soon as possible and no later than when informing its own public…”

Despite the nuclear power plant being nearer to the coast of Ireland than Leeds, the UK decided not to consult with the Irish public about the decision before it granted development consent in March 2013.

The first time many Irish people learned about the nuclear power plant proposal was when the decision was announced. Their views were not taken into consideration as part of the UK government’s decision and assessment process.

An Taisce was founded as a charity in 1948. It is one of Ireland’s oldest and largest Non-Government Organisations, and is a member of the International National Trusts Organisation, INTO, and the European Environmental Bureau, EEB.

An Taisce argues that consultation would allow both the UK and Ireland, and the potentially affected population, to contribute to the decision making process and would allow the UK to properly and fully consider the impacts and effects of the plant across boundaries.

They also point to the different approach on consultation adopted by other countries including Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, which have all consulted neighbouring countries as part of their decision-making processes to develop nuclear power facilities.

Rosa Curling from Leigh Day who is representing An Taisce, said:

“The nuclear power plant is closer to the Irish coast than Leeds. However, the UK Government decided not to consult with the Irish people before granting consent. This is despite the fact that, in the event of an accident, the potential effects on Ireland could be huge.”

“To refuse to allow the Irish people a voice about this new nuclear facility in such circumstances is wrong and unlawful.”

James Nix, spokesperson for An Taisce said:

“We consider compliance with environmental law as fundamental to effecting environmental protection. While An Taisce acknowledges the rights of UK authorities to make decisions on such matters, what is at issue here is whether the Secretary of State acted lawfully in granting consent while determining there was no need to consult Ireland and the Irish public and without taking those views into account.”

“We appreciate the UK intends to implement rigorous design and regulation on this facility to mitigate the risk of accidents. However the reality is in the event of an accident and/or a beyond design event at Hinkley Point, the significance of effects on Ireland is of huge concern to Ireland's population, our agri-food and tourism industries, and to our environment at large.”

“No matter what the probability – if it happens, the fact that there was a low likelihood of it happening will be of little comfort. That is why these legislative provisions and international agreements exist – namely to facilitate taking into account the input from the parties concerned as a fundamental part of the decision making process.”

“We seek the assistance of the courts in determining the lawfulness of the decision and ensuring environmental law is upheld”

Dr Paul Dorfman, who is from the Energy Institute at University College London, and founded the Nuclear Consulting Group, said:

“Whatever one’s view of the risks and benefits of nuclear energy, it’s clear that after Fukushima the possibility of catastrophic accidents must be factored into the policy and regulatory decision-making process. The Irish public need to have the opportunity to be involved and consulted here - this is what democracy is all about.”

“Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to unforeseen events or through human or engineering incidents, including accidental or deliberate harm. Accidents are, by nature, accidental, and the cost of ignoring this common-sense axiom can prove radiologically catastrophic.”

ENDS

For further information, please call:

James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce +353 87 2411995

Email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org

An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

www.antaisce.ie