Comments from the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG Paper No. 45)
The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) is astounded that Ofgem should be undertaking a consultation on the extremely premature application by the Bradwell Power Generation Co. Ltd. (BPGC) for an Electricity Generating Licence in relation to what we assume to be its Bradwell B project. We believe that with around 15 years before electricity could be generated by Bradwell B – should the project go ahead – this application should not be considered at the present time.
Further, we are concerned that this application appears to be an attempt to get around unfavourable planning processes and as such could be viewed as undermining the UK’s democratic processes.
In view of its clear prematurity, BANNG would like to know why Ofgem is consulting on this application at this early stage.
(i) Timing of application for an Electricity Generating Licence by BPGC:
Ofgem’s own guidelines state that an application for a licence should be made when the activity to be licensed is getting close to being carried out. If the Bradwell B project were to go ahead, it would not be generating electricity until the mid- to late-2030s. It cannot, therefore, be said in any way that Bradwell B is ‘getting close’ to electricity generation.
(ii) Approval process:
Bradwell B is still at an extremely early stage in the approval process. It has recently entered Step 4 of the Generic Design Assessment., the most testing step for the developer. On 11 February, however, BANNG was informed at its meeting with the Environment Agency and Office for Nuclear Regulation that issues still required to be addressed by the developer from Step 3.
(iii) Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Regulations:
Further, the design of the untried UKHPR1000 reactor has not been assessed under the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Regulations.
(Please note that this reactor is not in operation anywhere in the world. The Fangchenggang 3 and 4 Hualong 1 reactors (the reference reactor for Bradwell B) are expected to start operations in China in 2022 (World Nuclear Association, July 2020 – table of nuclear power reactors under construction).
(iv) The Bradwell site is only designated as ‘potentially suitable’ for deployment of a nuclear power station:
The Bradwell site was designated in NPS EN-6 in 2011 as ‘potentially suitable’ for deployment of a nuclear power station by 2025. In 2017 the Government held a consultation on a revised NPS for sites that would be suitable for deployment of nuclear power stations by 2035, but no decision has been made.
The Bradwell site, therefore, has not been re-designated and remains only ‘potentially suitable’. If it is re-designated, its potential suitability will be tested at the Development Control Order (DCO) stage which is at least 3 years away.
(v) Further premature activities by BRB:
In March, BRB (the partnership of CGN and EDF) commenced a non-statutory – and, BANNG, believes, extremely premature – Pre-Application Stage 1 Public Consultation. The company insisted on carrying on with this consultation even in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis when the public’s attention was rightly focussed on issues of survival. Many respondents to the consultation drew attention to the bad timing of the consultation, including local Councils.
The integral part of the consultation, public exhibitions at communities around the Blackwater estuary, were cancelled (5 out of 15 took place), disadvantaging those communities where none took place. Nonetheless, the public was so horrified at its plans for Bradwell B, that BRB received a large number of responses, the majority of which we believe oppose the Bradwell B project.
(vi) BRB’s rush to push Bradwell B forward:
BANNG wrote several times to request that the public consultation be cancelled and was told that it could not be as the need for nuclear power was ‘urgent’. Since there is no question of power generation before the mid- to late- 2030s this can only be regarded as a bogus claim.
There does, however, appear to be a rush by BRB to push Bradwell B forward with partially developed plans and at a point where there are still formidable regulatory hurdles to overcome. This premature application for an Electricity Generating Licence would appear to fit in with this seeming haste.
BANNG believes that the aim of BRB’s rush might be to put the regulators – and now Ofgem – on the back foot, putting them under pressure to give the nod to the eventual development of the new nuclear power station at the Bradwell site. Or it might be to gain premature legitimation for Bradwell B.
The regulators have warned BRB that the developer could be taking a risk in trying to push things forward.
(vii) Refusal of BRB Planning Application for land investigations at the Bradwell B site:
There may be a more ominous reason for BPGC’s premature application for an Electricity Generating Licence.
On 9 July, Maldon District Council Councillors refused the Planning Application (No. 20/00157) from BRB to undertake further land investigations at the Bradwell B site that would be the precursor to the building of a massive nuclear power station with long-term spent fuel and highly radioactive waste stores.
On 27 July, BPGC applied for an Electricity Generating Licence. It may have done so because having a licence could give the developer the right to enter the site for the purpose of ‘ascertaining whether the land would be suitable for … The construction … of a generating station’ (Paragraph 10 of Schedule 4 of the Electricity Act, 1989). These are the activities that were refused Planning Permission by Maldon District Council.
If so, this appears to be an attempt to undermine democratic processes.
(viii) Opposition from Councils to the Bradwell B project:
Ofgem should note that there is opposition to the Bradwell B project not just from the local communities of the Blackwater estuary area but also from a clear majority of local Councillors.
BANNG believes that Ofgem should refuse BPGC’s application for an Electricity Generating Licence on the grounds that it is extremely premature and contravenes Ofgem’s own guidelines on the timing for making such an application.
Prepared on behalf of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) by
Secretary 18 August, 2020