No objection by Ireland, UK nuclear hearing told
An Taisce objections not supported by Irish Government, say British
The merits of An Taisce’s challenge to a nuclear power station in Britain is illustrated by the fact that it has not been supported by the Irish Government, a lawyer for the British government argued yesterday.
The merits of An Taisce’s challenge to a nuclear power station in Britain is illustrated by the fact that it has not been supported by the Irish Government, a lawyer for the British
government argued yesterday.
The way was cleared by British energy secretary Ed Davey last month for the station at Hinkley Point in Somerset – a £14 billion project to be built by French energy company EDF, backed by Chinese money and capable of powering five million homes .
An Taisce has sought a judicial review, arguing that the energy secretary “acted unlawfully” in granting planning permission without carrying out “transboundary consulation” with the Irish, as required under EU rules.
However, Mr Davey has argued in legal papers lodged for the two-day hearing that he is required to consult where there is “a real risk”, or “a serious possibility” of “significant environmental effects”, but not where there is only a bare possibility.
The Irish Government has repeatedly raised questions about the operation of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria, said counsel for Mr Davey, Jonathan Swift, but concerns about Hinkley Point “have never been raised”.
An Taisce, he told Mrs Justice Patterson, has repeatedly said that there is “an obligation” on the secretary of state “to consult the Irish people”, but, he said, it is clear “that no such obligation exists”.
Describing Mr Davey’s conduct as “unlawful”, counsel for An Taisce, David Wolfe QC, said Mr Davey may have acted in accordance with Euratom regulations, but he had not obeyed or abided by EU safety directives.
The energy secretary had not considered the economic impacts of environmental problems caused by even minor leaks from Hinkley Point, though he was pressed by Mr Swift to read out a report which put that risk at a one-in-32 million chance. Under the Espoo Convention, signatory states, including Britain, agreed to consulting neighbouring states even if there “a low likelihood” of risk, unless “a significant adverse trans-boundary impact can be excluded”, he went on.
Impact of accidents
Mr Davey had not, and nor did he claim in submissions made up to now, had tried to predict the impact of accidents or alarms on “a worst case” basis, “as was required by the precautionary approach” principle .
A leak of radioactive coolant from Hinkley Point that was brought by southeasterly winds to Ireland from Somerset would raise the risk of contracting cancer by 2 per cent, though that risk could be reduced subject to intensive, but costly health monitoring.
Decisions about planning had been made, for example, on the basis that wind speeds would not exceed eight metres per second “which is plainly not a worst case scenario”, Mr Wolfe told Mrs Justice Patterson.
During one of a number of testy exchanges between the two, Mr Wolfe, who finished his submission yesterday afternoon, went on: “Fukushima was unlikely to happen, too. We learned the lessons of Fukushima.”