Saturday, October 08, 2011

Stop Hinckley C nuclear power station campaign gets underway

The Stop Hinckley C nuclear power station blockade
As RWE threatens to follow SSE in pulling out of plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK, up to 400 protestors formed a blockade this week to oppose the construction of EDF's Hinkley C plant in Somerset.

Locals and other supporters held a minute's silence on Monday for the victims of the Fukishima fallout, and then released 206 helium balloons, one for each day since the disaster.

Earlier in the previous week a Stop Hinkley camp had been set up four miles away from the blockade site with workshops and speakers, and on Saturday (1st) protestors marched from EDF's offices in Bridgwater around the town.

According to the website, supporters include former LibDem leader Paddy Ashdown, cartoonist Raymond Briggs, actor Julie Christie, Monty Python's Terry Jones, Green MP Caroline Lucas, former Labour Environment Secretary Michael Meacher, and composer John Williams.

Stop New Nuclear spokesperson, Andreas Speck, said the blockade has put the government and EDF on the back foot. "Following the interest this blockade has attracted, both regionally and nationally, the government and EDF can no longer claim that the we need nuclear energy to keep the lights on."

He continued: "Germany has committed to a nuclear-free future without buying nuclear power from France or building new coal-fired power stations. The German government is looking at a decentralised energy model with a mix of renewables and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to bridge the gap left by withdrawal from nuclear. If Germany can do it, why can’t we?"

Angie Zelter, who in 1996 attacked a Hawk jet being sold in the UK to suppress pro-democracy protests in East Timor (and was cleared of criminal damage), lampooned EDF’s claims that Hinkley Point is sustainable. "Radioactive waste from the proposed new ERP reactors will be so toxic that it will have to be stored on the site for over 100 years. With the growth in extreme weather conditions there is no guarantee that this waste can be stored safely," she said.

The reactor planned for Hinkley C is based on an untested design, a European Pressurized Reactor. It would be the fourth of its type; two others in Finland and France are way over budget, behind schedule and not yet operational.

The one at Flamanville, France, is four years behind and currently estimated to cost twice as much as the original price tag. Two people have died on its construction site and the plant is not expected to go onstream before 2016 at the very earliest.

EDF, the most experienced constructor in the world, has admitted it has not mastered the engineering techniques demanded by the hugely complex and complicated design of the 1,650 MWe reactor.

The Olkiluoto plant in Finland too has seen massive cost overruns and delays, with the Finnish government and Areva now locked in an expensive legal battle.

EDF (Electricité de France) says the preparatory work at Hinckley includes commitments for more than £25 million worth of measures to mitigate the impact of the new build project.

EDF's planning application included the clearing of 420 acres of land, drilling boreholes and concreting the site, but this work will precede any decision by the Infrastructure Planning Committee on whether the full construction can proceed. An application to the IPC is to be submitted later this year.

With its partner Centrica, it has submitted applications for a Nuclear Site Licence.

If it were to go ahead, ot would be the first nuclear power station to be built in the country for over 20 years.

A legal challenge to EDF's nuclear plans is underway, expected to cost up to £15,000. This is a lot for a small group to raise, so please consider donating here.

There is an Environment Agency consultation on radioactive discharges from Hinkley C, open until 15 December. Please send an objection. Click here for a suggested letter of objection.

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