The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Forum has submitted its views today to the Scottish Government on changes to environmental law which could have a major part to play in public scrutiny on lifetime extensions to aging nuclear power stations. (1)
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on making changes to its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. (2) For the NFLA, these amendments provide an ideal opportunity to close a loophole which means that under current legislation, there is no requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out before a Periodic Safety Review (PSR) of a nuclear power station is approved. In the NFLA’s view, this has negative effects in relation to Scotland’s position to two major international environmental regulations – the Espoo Convention and the Aarhus Convention.
The Espoo (EIA) Convention sets out the obligations of States to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries. (3) The Aarhus Convention and its Protocol empowers people with the right to access easily information, participate effectively in decision-making in environmental matters and to seek justice if they perceive their rights are violated. They also protect every person’s right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being. (4)
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is currently looking at the Periodic Safety Review (PSR) for Hunterston B, and it is expected to make a decision in January 2017. (5) EDF Energy has also announced that it plans to extend the life of Torness nuclear power station by 7 years to 2030. It will also go through a PSR in 2019. (6)
In responding to this Scottish Government consultation, NFLA concludes:
- The Scottish Government’s consultation on amending the rules around EIA’s presents an ideal opportunity to amend Scottish Environment Impact Regulations and allow full public discussion and scrutiny on lifetime extensions to the Hunterston and Torness nuclear power plants.
- Under current Scottish legislation there is no requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out before a Periodic Safety Review is approved. In the NFLA’s view, the terms of the Espoo Convention suggests this situation should change.
- As such, on the NFLA’s view this also means that the Scottish public is being denied its opportunity to have a say on Periodic Safety Assessments and Nuclear Power Station Life Extensions as required under article 6 of the Aarhus Convention. Again this situation should change.
NFLA Scotland Convener Councillor Bill Butler said:
NFLA Scotland has been concerned for some time that the Scottish Government has been allowing EDF to set lifetime extensions for Torness and Hunterston without proper public consultation and scrutiny. I hope that through this consultation the legal loophole is closed. Both Torness and Hunterston nuclear power plants are aging and the potential for a safety incident or accident to occur increases. The Scottish Government has firmly set itself against new nuclear power stations, a policy the NFLA applauds. It is also essential that it now listens to groups like NFLA Scotland over safety concerns from lifetime extensions to nuclear power plants. NFLA wants to see a full move away from nuclear power and fossil fuels towards renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. Keeping aging nuclear power plants running is a risky short-term solution when the rapid increase of renewables in Scotland shows it has the real possibility to do without them.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244 or 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) The NFLA Policy Briefing giving its views on the Scottish Government consultation is attached with this media release. It will go on the NFLA website https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/briefings/nfla-policy-briefing-150-consultation-amending-scottish-environmental-impact-assessment-regulations/.
(2) The Scottish Government consultation is at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00504075.pdf.
(3) UNECE, Introduction to the Espoo Convention, http://www.unece.org/env/eia/eia.html
(4) UNECE, Introduction to the Aarhus Convention, http://www.unece.org/env/pp/welcome.html
(5) Hansard, Nuclear Power Stations: Safety: Written question – 200777, answered 23rd June 2014 http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2014-06-16/200777/
(6) BBC 16th Feb 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35583740