UK ‘yet to properly assess’ nuclear plan’s impact on Ireland

Activists criticise Government’s failure to engage with public over Hinkley Point C

A computer generated image of the Hinkely Point C reactor in southwest England. File photograph: Hayes Davidson/AFP/Getty Images

A computer generated image of the Hinkely Point C reactor in southwest England. File photograph: Hayes Davidson/AFP/Getty Images

 

There are “alarming deficiencies” in the UK’s approach to assessing impacts of plans to expand its nuclear power programme on Ireland, according to the Irish Environmental Pillar (EP).

In addition, particular risks associated with the Hinkley Point C power station being built in Somerset have not been properly evaluated, it claims.

The £20 billion Hinkley Point C facility, the first British nuclear power station to be built in 30 years, is less than 250km from Rosslare, Co Wexford. It is one of five new nuclear plants planned for locations on the west coast of the UK facing Ireland.

The shortcomings in the Hinkley project and lack of State input into “a long overdue public consultation process” is highlighted by a submission by the EP – a coalition of major Irish environmental organisations.

After a five-year legal battle, consultation began on February 20th with submissions collected by the Government – they will be submitted to the UK authorities.

It concluded on April 17th amid continuing controversy over further consultations on the UK’s nuclear programme relating to radioactive waste which have not been notified to the Irish public.

The EP welcomed confirmation that the Oireachtas committee on planning would have a hearing on the issue.

Its submission claims the original environmental impact assessment (EIA) to grant development consent was and remains compromised by the UK’s failure to consult its “transboundary neighbours” in accordance with its international and EU legal obligations.

“The UK should suspend works on Hinkley Point C pending the outcome of this consultation and conduct a full EIA in the best interest of the safety of UK citizens and those in neighbouring countries,” it adds.

It highlights “serious scandals and controversies around the manufacturing techniques and quality assurance processes uncovered in relation to the Le Creusot Forge in France, and problems with the development of the clone reactor in Flamanville III [nuclear power plant, also in France] on which the Hinkley Point C design relies”.

Pandora’s box

The Government, it says, has shown “a lack of proactive engagement to secure consultation rights and proactively promote the interests of the Irish citizens” on these issues. “A serious nuclear accident would open up a Pandora’s box of potential problems for our island, including an estimated economic loss of €161 billion and devastation of our agriculture,” it claims.

It says the health impact of normal operational emissions has not been properly assessed.

The submission suggests the UK failed to adequately assess the future impact on Ireland, given serious failures in the consideration of climatological factors, flooding and seismic risks at Hinkley.

It points to a lack of assessment of the potential impact of the disposal of radioactive waste arising from the operation of the plant on its neighbours, notably Ireland, especially as the UK is considering development of underground or undersea storage for radioactive waste, including locations in Northern Ireland and under marine waters.

It also points to a lack of emergency response capacity in Ireland. The HSE recently warned the State had no capacity at present to deal with a nuclear accident.

Attracta Uí Bhroin, environmental law implementation group facilitator at the Irish Environmental Network, said: “Our main concern is the UK has yet to adequately assess the impact of normal operations and an accident on Ireland and the Irish public.”

The State compounded its earlier failures to extend this consultation last July, when it was happening in other European countries, by its failure to take effective action to make people aware of this consultation, she said.

“We need to ensure our Government is also vigilant on associated nuclear infrastructure such as dumps for radioactive waste – a direct consequence of the UK’s nuclear power plants.”

The EP was also concerned with complications arising from Brexit, she said, with the UK signalling its intention to withdraw from the Euratom treaty on nuclear material transport, safety and waste.