Joint letter made by the NGO Chairs of the ONR NGO Forum and BEIS NGO Forum, and the NFLA Secretariat
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) has supported a joint letter, which was sent in conjunction with the NGO Co-Chair of the BEIS NGO Forum, Professor Andrew Blowers, and the NGO Co-Chair of the ONR NGO Forum, Dr Jill Sutcliffe, in relation to the ongoing construction work at the proposed Hinkley Point C site. The letter was also fully approved by the Chair of the NFLA Steering Committee on behalf of its member authorities; and was sent on behalf of the non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) that attend both forums and the NFLA.
The letter was issued following media reports and photos of ongoing construction work at Hinkley Point, and issues around the social distancing regulations implemented by the UK Government. The statement was sent to Stephen Speed, Director of the Office for Nuclear Development in the Government’s Business, Energy and Infrastructure Strategy (BEIS); and to Adriènne Kelbie and Mark Foy, Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). The letter has been acknowledged by the ONR, who issued a position statement on their response to the Covid-19 this morning. (1)
The statement sent on the 30th March is as follows:
Dear Stephen, Mark and Adriènne,
Closure of Hinkley Point C construction site
We are writing as representatives of NGOs and Local Authorities concerned about the implications of the Covid-19 epidemic for the workforce and local communities around the Hinkley Point C construction site. We believe that the continued operation of the site is inconsistent with HM Government guidelines on coronavirus and poses an unnecessary and unjustifiable danger to workers and the local population. Accordingly, we consider that construction should cease immediately.
Although Hinkley Point C may be regarded as critical national infrastructure, its construction during this national emergency cannot be justified. The project will not be completed for many years and halting it now will have a marginal impact on its commissioning several years hence. The point is working on the site now is not a critical necessity at a time of crisis.
The site operators have understood the risk of continuing working, hence the decision to reduce the numbers on site. However, the remaining workforce is still substantial and so the peril persists. As is evident from photos, it is almost impossible for such a large workforce to maintain the rules on social distancing while in canteens, signing on, in travel to the site and on the site itself. And, as local people have insisted, the proximity of workers living within communities that are in lockdown makes containment of the virus very difficult. The dispersal of the workers risks spreading infection across north Somerset. The health of both workers and communities is being put at risk by the unnecessary continuation of construction.
The Government/BEIS has responsibilities for the health and safety of construction workers and for ensuring that risk to the population of the south west is minimised by implementing its coronavirus guidelines. The regulator, ONR, has the responsibility of minimising risk during this period and of ensuring safety and security at nuclear sites. In this instance that responsibility should be exercised by closing down all operations except essential maintenance.
We recognise the economic imperative to secure the country’s infrastructure but operations at Hinkley Point C cannot be said to be essential at this point. Any risk to the economy is by far outweighed by the risk to public health of continuing operations. Therefore, we urge you to exercise your powers and responsibilities to close operations at Hinkley Point C until such time as work can be safely resumed.
Professor Andrew Blowers, BEIS NGO Forum Co-Chair
Dr Jill Sutcliffe, ONR NGO Forum Co-Chair
Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary
Cc: Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng, MP, Minister for Energy
Professor Blowers 07930 800253
Dr Sutcliffe – contact number via the NFLA Secretariat
NFLA Secretariat 07771 930196
Notes to editors:
(1) Office for Nuclear Regulation statement, 31st March 2020