Bradwell site unsuitable & unsustainable

Professor Andy Blowers writes: With all the attention fixated for so long on Hinkley Point C (HPC) developments at other sites have tended to slip into the background a bit. It’s now clear that the Government not only backs HPC but a whole raft of future possibilities leading up to the ludicrous total of 18GW nuclear power. We’ve unequivocally established why that is economic madness but the other arguments against new nuclear have been somewhat subdued. That is where the proposal for Bradwell now comes into full sunlight.

Perhaps unnoticed by those following the meta-narrative of nuclear power, there has been a campaign focused on Bradwell continuing over the past eight and more years. It has been run by Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) which I founded and have chaired ever since. A tour of the website Banng.info will reveal the extent and depth of the issues and concerns. In brief they are:

  1. The site is quite unsuitable and unsustainable in the long run. It is at sea level on a coast highly vulnerable to storm surges, coastal processes and sea level rise.
  1. The Blackwater estuary is very shallow making it very difficult to supply cooling water without damage to the environment. Alternatives – sea cooling, cooling towers – provide serious technical and environmental challenges.
  1. It is intended to store spent fuel on the site. Even if a repository becomes available it would not be possible to transfer Bradwell’s waste until well into the next century if at all.
  1. The estuary is highly ‘protected’ by national and international designations including the recent declaration of a Marine Conservation Area status. No doubt the idea of Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI) will somehow be invoked to enable the Chinese to trash the area.
  1. Within an approximate range of 30km are 300,000 people. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement emergency planning measures in the event of a serious incident. The nearest large settlement is within 3km, an island cut off completely during certain high tides and with only one access.
  1. The proposed power station is essentially a Chinese experiment using the so-called tough British regulatory system to legitimate the untried Hualong 1 reactor and showcase it for global markets. This raises unprecedented security issues offering British sensitive infrastructure to a foreign, hostile power.

Furthermore, the Chinese have been typically reticent about their intentions despite being invited to meet with BANNG. Openness and transparency is quite alien to them it seems, despite protestations to the contrary. Thus, we have no idea how many reactors, what cooling system is proposed, how they intend to deal with environmental constraints or what they will do with the spent fuel and other wastes.

The predictable sell of jobs and investment has begun to beguile a gullible local population on one side of the estuary while opposition is strong on the other. It is worth noting this is not an active site – the former power station shut in 2002 and the site is shortly to enter a care and maintenance phase. However, this has been delayed as Magnox discharge dissolved Fuel Element Debris into the estuary and have recently got agreement for the import of ILW from Dungeness and Sizewell.  All this has proved deeply controversial and been fought step by step by BANNG.

So, after all these years the nuclear sun refuses to set on the Blackwater with the prospect of a new dawn the harbinger of the ‘golden relationship’.

Over the years we have campaigned vigorously, including demonstrations, a 10,000 face-to-face petition taken up to Whitehall, lobbying and research.  The fruits can be found in the cornucopia of consultation papers on our website. I draw attention especially to papers 4 and 9 especially which give the case against Bradwell comprehensively.

Now that the Hinkley battle has been lost (though not perhaps entirely) attention needs to turn to the other sites. The arguments on economics and security are powerful and need constant repetition.  To these must be added problems with siting and especially the problem of nuclear waste that cannot be wished away and confers on future generations a burden they have no part in creating and do not deserve.

It’s hardly surprising Bradwell has received relatively little attention at national level. After all it only came into prominence last year when it was put forward as a vanity project for Osborne and his erstwhile Chinese collaborators. It has received continuing coverage in the regional and local press and media.  Now it’s necessary to get a more national focus to stop it dead in the water so to speak. I hope you’ll all get behind the campaign in the coming months.

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Published: 4 October 2016