Pressure group warns of future safety risks at nuclear power plant
Energy giant EDF Energy has been blasted for breaching conservation guidelines and forcing a colony of badgers off land earmarked for controversial new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point in north Somerset. Environmentalists warn that future corner-cutting could put lives at risk if construction of the two new reactors gets the green light.
According to the Badger Trust, the legally-protected animals should only be moved ‘as a last resort’. However, EDF Energy has begun blocking off the badgers’ burrows or ‘setts’ - even though the company has not yet applied for planning permission for the 400-acre Hinkley C power station.
‘This is a clear warning of how EDF Energy intends to operate in the future,’ says Nancy Birch, spokeswoman for the anti nuclear energy campaign, Kick Nuclear. ‘The company is using its commercial muscle to cut corners. At the moment it’s badgers that are suffering. But our concern is that the same attitude may cause people to suffer if Hinkley C gets the go-ahead and there is an accident or radioactive leak.’
Spokesman for the Badgers Trust, Jack Reedy, said badgers can suffer distress and violence if they are dislodged. “If it’s not done very carefully, it can be very stressful for the animals and unbelievably cruel,’ he explained. ‘There is no guarantee they will use artificial setts and if the badgers try to move in with a new colony, they can fight and sustain quite severe injuries.’
Kick Nuclear has slammed EDF Energy for persuading environmental watchdog, Natural England, to grant a premature licence to block off the setts. Natural England’s policy guidelines states that it will only issue a licence, ‘after detailed planning permission has been granted.’ However EDF Energy has already been given the go-ahead – even though the company has not yet formally applied for planning permission.
Nancy Birch points out that nuclear energy generation is dangerous and difficult to control. ‘The safety of the British public can’t be assured when we see EDF Energy behaving in this way,’ she says.
Natural England claim that the Hinkley project is ‘an exceptional’ case and that granting an early licence will avoid delays in planning applications and construction. But as Nancy points out, ‘Natural England is meant to protect wildlife – not the interests of powerful multinationals. They must share responsibility for the cruelty being imposed on these poor creatures.’
In recent months, there has been a growing wave of opposition to the new reactor. In October, local protestors blockaded the entrance to the current reactor site at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Meanwhile a new campaign was recently launched calling for a Boycott of EDF Energy across the UK.
‘Deep concern about the storage of large amounts of radioactive waste at Hinkley has not been resolved and the development of Hinkley C is by no means cut and dried,’ says Nikki Clark a member of Somerset-based campaign group, Stop Hinkley. ‘With such a dangerous form of energy, EDF should be showing best practice at every stage. Their approach to the local badger population does not bode well for the future.’
Natural England has said that if planning permission were to be refused, the badgers would be allowed to return to their original burrows. In response Nikki says, ‘This is no consolation to the badgers. The damage has been done and clearly demonstrates EDF Energy’s contempt for wildlife. There is a good chance that there will be no badgers left to return to the burrows.’
Despite being the national experts in the protection of badgers, the Badger Trust says it was not consulted over the removal of badgers from the site.
For more information: contact Nancy Birch at Kick Nuclear on 07811 451417 or
Crispin Aubrey, spokesman for Stop Hinkley on 01278-732921
Images attached are of land earmarked for EDF Energy’s proposed 400 acre development. Photographer: Paul Glendell.
Kick Nuclear is a national campaign group which aims to highlight the dangers of nuclear energy.
The government is planning to give the green light to a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK next spring.
There are many reasons why this must not happen:
*Nuclear energy is not safe*
Mismanagement of nuclear waste over the last 60 years has meant that radiation has already contaminated our environment(1). Radiation causes cancer and eventually kills.
The nuclear industry is struggling to deal with 500,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste being stored around the UK. There is no approved method of long-term storage.
March 2010: nuclear power station operator, Magnox, fined £250,000 for allowing 14 years of radioactive leaks from a holding tank at Bradwell nuclear power station in Essex (2).
April 2010: Sellafield nuclear processing facility exposed for dumping five bags of radioactive waste in a landfill site after a faulty scanner passed them as safe (3).
Since 2000, there have been near-disasters at reactors in Sweden (4), the Netherlands (5), Japan (6) and France (7).
The nuclear industry says that the new generation of reactors will be safer. But human error, earthquakes, floods or terrorism can never be ruled out.
*Nuclear energy is not green*
The Sustainable Development Commission estimates that a nuclear power programme will only deliver a cut in carbon dioxide emissions of 2.4% by 2020 (8).
Uranium (nuclear fuel) extraction and processing is one of the most dangerous and carbon-intensive forms of mining.
Nuclear waste from new reactors will be even more toxic than existing radioactive by-products (9).
*Nuclear energy is not cheap*
The current decommissioning and clean-up costs for the UK’s existing nuclear industry is equivalent to a bill of over £1,600 for every person in the UK (10).
Construction of the first new EPR reactor in Finland is 3 years behind schedule and more than £1bn over-budget.
UK taxpayers have always subsidised the nuclear industry to manage nuclear waste, insure against accidents and provide protection against terrorism.
When David Cameron says new reactors will be built without public subsidy, he means subsidies will be provided under another name.
It’s likely that the cost of building new reactors will be transferred to our electricity use - so we’ll be billed directly. Moreover, nuclear power only accounts for around 3% of our total energy use.
*There are alternatives*
Reports by respected organisations in both the UK and Europe have shown that there are more than enough renewable sources of power to meet present and future needs. Reducing our energy demand is the key.
Renewables are cheaper, can be built more quickly and have none of the dangers associated with nuclear energy. They could also create thousands of new jobs. What we need is a government that has the vision and courage to make this happen.
The development of smart-grids will allow a much more flexible supply of power from different sources to meet different demands. Nuclear energy is a dinosaur in the mix. It has no place in our future.
A few of the alternative strategies available can be found via:
Centre for Alternative Technology’s report: Zero Carbon Britain
Sustainable Development Commission’s report: Nuclear power in a low carbon economy
Greenpeace’s report: Decentralising Power: an energy revolution for the 21st century
8. The role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy, Paper 2: reducing Co2 emissions – nuclear and alternatives, Sustainable Development Commission, p 29
10. Switching Power, Greenpeace, March 2006, p2 and http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/decentralised-energy-w