An Taisce loses UK challenge over Hinkley nuclear plant

British high court rejects argument that Ireland should be consulted over £14bn plant planned for Somerset

Sat, Dec 21, 2013, 01:00

A legal challenge by An Taisce to a planning permit for a £14 billion nuclear power plant in England has failed, following a high court ruling in London yesterday.

During a three-day hearing earlier this month, An Taisce argued that British energy secretary Ed Davies was obliged to consult with Ireland about the Hinkley Point development in Somerset.

However, Mrs Justice Patterson, in a 50-page judgment released earlier than expected, ruled that Mr Davies had acted correctly in his decision.

“In my judgment there is no reason that precludes the secretary of state from being able to have regard to, and rely upon, the existence of a stringently operated regulatory regime for future control.

Sufficient information
“Because of its existence, he was satisfied, on a reasonable basis, that he had sufficient information to enable him to come to a final decision on the development consent application,” she said.

The energy secretary had had “sufficient information” before him in order to be able to make “a comprehensive assessment” of the safety of the project under EU rules.

“The fact that there were some matters still to be determined by other regulatory bodies does not affect that finding,” she said, rejecting one of the key pillars of An Taisce’s argument. “Those matters outstanding were within the expertise and jurisdiction of the relevant regulatory bodies which the defendant was entitled to rely upon.”

Last night An Taisce said it would study the ruling.

‘Real risk’
During the hearing, the British government argued that consultation with Ireland was not necessary as the impact of accidents had been considered. Consultation with fellow EU states was only required in relation to significant environmental effects when there was a “real risk” that they could happen.

Using An Taisce’s arguments, the judge said, Irish citizens would get the right to be consulted about Hinkley Point – but would only get documents about problems that would be unlikely to affect them. “That is because the claimant’s case is that any effect that cannot be ruled out must be regarded as ‘likely’. In my judgment, such an approach is highly artificial.

“[It] runs contrary to the plain language used in both the directive and the 2009 regulations. In each case when it is used the word acts as a trigger for environmental assessment,” she said.

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