The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes a report noted in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper that the United Nations Economic and Social Council has ruled that the UK Government has failed to consult European countries properly over potential environmental risks at Hinkley Point.
In documents seen by the Guardian the UN committee argues the UK “is in non-compliance with its obligations” to discuss the possible impact of any accident or event at a new Hinkley Point nuclear reactor that could affect neighbouring countries within the EU, such as the Republic of Ireland. (1)
NFLA has consistently argued that the national and international consultations on the Hinkley Point C development have been inadequate, and the emergency planning and nuclear safety issues around the development should have received much more consideration.
An Taisce (the Irish National Trust) shared such a view and went to the UK High Court to argue this and a number of other points relating to compliance with European environmental legislation. This ruling from the United Nations clearly may have an impact now on the High Court’s ruling to reject An Taisce’s original legal challenge.
The UN’s ruling relates to the Espoo Convention, a treaty about risks that may come from pollution crossing national boundaries (wind and water), and the right of neighbouring countries to have a democratic voice about trans-boundary pollution. This new UN ruling by the Espoo Implementation Committee concludes that the UK was non-compliant with its obligations under the Espoo Convention in respect of trans-boundary consultation on Hinkley Point C.
An Taisce’s legal challenge of the UK Government in the High Court argued that the Irish people had not been consulted about the risk of radioactive pollution from an accident at the proposed new reactors at Hinkley. The judge found in favour of the Government, saying that there was no real risk or possibility of accident, and even if there was an accident, there could be no significant radiation release.
NFLA agrees with the comments made to ‘The Guardian’ by Dr Paul Dorfman of the Nuclear Consulting Group, who advised An Taisce, that this new UK legal ruling profoundly questions this High Court ruling. The fact is, the Irish people could be at risk from a nuclear accident at Hinkley and so they must be consulted.
This ruling follows on from a long litany of bad news for the developers of the Hinkley Point C site – EDF and Areva. These include last week’s news that over 400 irregularities have been found in the safety information on components built by Areva on French and UK nuclear reactors going back decades, and ongoing safety issues at the Flamanville plant in Normandy, which is identical to what is planned for Hinkley Point. Financing the plant is becoming increasingly difficult for EDF, whilst a separate legal challenge by the Austrian Government on the European Commission’s approval of the state aid deal for the site is still being considered by the European courts.
Dr Dorfman, who has cooperated with the NFLA at a recent joint UK Parliament seminar on Fukushima (2) chaired by Margaret Ritchie MP (and whose principal speaker was the former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan) told the NFLA:
An Taisce went to the High Court in London to challenge the legality of the UK’s decision to grant permission to build and operate two new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point, 150 miles from the Irish coast. Whatever one’s view of the risks and benefits of nuclear energy, it is clear that the possibility of catastrophic accidents must be factored into the policy and regulatory decision-making process. It seems clear that the Irish public need to have the opportunity to be involved and consulted in this process.”
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co-Chair Councillor Mark Dearey said:
I welcome this ruling by the United Nations which calls into question the amount of real consultation for Ireland and other EU members of the Hinkley Point development. If anything serious did happen at such a reactor then Ireland is at real risk from its impact. I hope An Taisce may consider a new legal challenge given this UN ruling. I also hope the new Government may make public representations and consider supporting An Taisce with such a challenge. Nuclear-free Ireland does not want to be put at risk from Hinkley Point and the Irish public should now be properly consulted on this development.
The key finding of the UN Economic and Social Council is that Britain failed to notify neighbouring states and the general public of the threat of trans-boundary nuclear pollution from Hinkley Point C in the event of a major accident. Furthermore Britain failed to consult with affected states as they are required to do under the terms of the ESPOO Transboundary Pollution Convention. The recommendation that Britain now enter into discussion with neighbouring states to decide on “whether notification is useful at this stage” is surprisingly weak as a definitive view would have been appropriate given the findings. It’s a yellow card for a red card offence.
Nonetheless, Ireland now needs to take the opportunity to insist on a notification process so that we the public can have our say on the potential threat posed by Hinkley. I am sure An Taisce are weighing up their options following their defeat in the UK courts on the same issue last year, but there can be no doubt that this ruling adds significantly to their case should they wish to re-enter it.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 07771 930196.
Notes for Editors
(1) The Guardian, 8th May 2016
(2) See NFLA weblinks on the Parliamentary seminar