Under European Union regulations, companies hoping to build a nuclear facility must show the benefits outweigh the potential health risks – this is known as the Justification Process. In March 2008 the Government issued Guidance and invited nuclear companies to put forward new reactor designs by June for a justification decision. The process was expected to take about 18 months to complete, up to mid-2009.
An application was made by the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) in June 2008 on behalf of those energy utilities interested in developing new reactors. At the end of October 2008 the new Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) wrote to NIA seeking further information within 28 days.
Nuclear Consultation Group
The Nuclear Consultation Group, a group of academics and experts with specialist knowledge on nuclear power and energy called for the Government to hold an inquiry into the ‘Justification’ of new reactors. The group wrote to the Department of Energy and Climate Change explaining that: “Given that Justification, once finalised, may foreclose on any future discussion on issues crucial to nuclear power, it is vital that this process is opened up in order to allow for meaningful and realistic examination of evidence a public forum.”
The group called it a “rushed process in a crowded schedule”. See the group’s briefing.
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities published a briefing to assist its members in their response to this consultation.
Between November 2009 and February 2010 the Government held another consultation, this time on the Secretary of State’s proposed decision. The Justification draft decision documents pointed out that the Government‘s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) was undertaking a further review of the incidence of childhood cancer around nuclear power stations, with particular reference to the KiKK study in Germany, but this wasn‘t expected to be published until after the consultation had closed.
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities published a briefing on responding to the Justification consultation in December 2009. NuClear News No.16 looked at some of the highlights from submissions to the consultation.
Despite a strong push for a public inquiry the Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, published his decisions as Justifying Authority on 18 October 2010, which agreed that two nuclear reactor designs, Westinghouse‘s AP1000 and Areva‘s EPR, would be Justified – that is, that their benefits outweigh any radiological health detriment they may cause.
In February 2014 the Government launched a new consultation to seek view on the Nuclear Industry Association’s application for a regulatory justification decision on the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The ABWR is the reactor type which Hitachi and Horizon proposes to build and operate at Wylfa on Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. With the ABWR Justification Process the Government is again proposing a two stage process. There will be a second consultation on a draft regulatory justification decision by the Secretary of State as Justifying Authority. This is expected to take place, along with public engagement events, between July and October 2014. If the benefits of operating ABWRs reactors is found to outweigh the health detriments i.e. be Justified, then the Secretary of State (the Justifying Authority) will make a regulatory justification decision in the form of secondary legislation (a Statutory Instrument) between January and March 2015. Clearly any slippage in the timetable could mean a decision being delayed until after the General Election.
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities have published a briefing on the ABWR Justification Consultation which closed on 13th May 2014.
On 11 December 2014 the Secretary of State, Ed Davey, published his decision as Justifying Authority that the nuclear reactor design, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd’s UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR), should be Justified.