European citizens don’t want to be left out of decision-making over nuclear power. But a recent meeting of the Espoo Convention reveals how concerns over reactor life-time extensions are being sidelined. After Fukushima, you might think that nuclear power is a thing of the past. Or that our focus on climate is the only issue of public concern when it comes to the energy sector. Yet the recent Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention, which deals with environmental impact assessments across borders, was hi-jacked by ongoing disputes over reactor construction and lifetime extension. In Minsk, 200 participants representing the 45 states who are members to this UN Convention held heated discussions over problematic cases, such as Hinkley Point C (UK), Ostravets (Belarus) and a number of old Ukrainian reactors going through their lifetime extensions. This dispute has arisen largely because the rules on who has a say when decisions regarding nuclear operations are made are unclear. Which countries and their citizens should be notified and involved in decision-making on a new nuclear installation such as Hinkley Point C? And how about extending the lifetime of old reactors, like the Yuzhnoukrainsk power plant in south Ukraine? These are questions to be addressed in the framework of the Espoo Convention. But are we really solving the dilemma of whether nuclear operations can have a significant transboundary impact, which should, according to the Espoo Convention, trigger communication across borders with potentially affected parties? Or are we witnessing a political game, fueled by self-centered interests of nuclear positive countries and the nuclear business, which is trying to remodel itself by “climate-neutral marketing” of its product?
Open Democracy 4th July 2017 read more »