Recently two events have moved the prospect of Bradwell B, a mega nuclear power station on the tip of the Dengie peninsula, a little closer. Or, could it be that as the project shifts from being an impossible fantasy to a dystopian nightmare it will disappear without much trace of its existence?
But perhaps not yet. The announcement by the joint regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) that they have begun assessing the Chinese UK HPR1000 reactor design starts the approval process of testing the safety, security and environmental impacts of the proposed power station. This process is long, around four years, and there will be difficult obstacles to be overcome. As it proceeds, the technical and environmental problems of planting reactors and radioactive spent fuel on a vanishing coast, in a precious marine environment directly opposite a substantial population in West Mersea will be revealed. The question is how far will it be allowed to go before the regulators call time on such a lunatic scheme? Or will the intense pressure from the UK and Chinese governments produce a climate favourable to acceptance of the scheme?
The second event is the Planning Application by the developer, CGN/EDF, for permission to undertake ground investigations in connection with a potential new nuclear power station. This application will be determined by Maldon District Council on 14 December. Maldon has already said that it will ‘strongly support the principle of the development’ of the power station and so presumably will kiss it through with little real debate.
A pig in a poke
Permission should not be granted. The application is to enable some relatively innocent seeming intrusive works – exploratory boreholes, trenches, monitoring and sampling points and the like – ‘to inform the design of a potential new nuclear power station on the site’. Yet, no information whatsoever is given on the design beyond the suggestion that there will be two reactors. What about the scale, location and mass of the various buildings that make up such a complex – reactors, turbines, spent fuel and waste stores, transmission and cooling systems, jetty, control and administration?
It is perfidious and premature to ask for permission for intrusive works for a project that has not yet been defined, not even in the broadest terms. The application must be refused on the grounds that the site is wholly unsuitable, unsustainable and unacceptable for an undefined project. Local communities are being invited to accept a pig in a poke, a monstrous invasion and transformation of a peaceful, rural and maritime landscape into a dangerous and inaccessible, industrialised wasteland.
It is impossible to conceive of any circumstances in which a mega nuclear power station could be justified at this site. Consequently, it is a waste of time and resources taking the application for intrusive work, or indeed the design assessment, any further.
A wholly unsuitable site
At least he Application reveals why the site is wholly unsuitable: two-thirds is on the tidal flood plain and, undefended, would be flooded at high tide. That is now. A new nuclear station would be operating until the end of this century and the highly radioactive spent fuel would remain on site until at least the middle of the next. By that time who knows what site conditions will be like?
We do know that sea level is rising and the Essex coast is sinking. Projections of sea level rise continue to increase, the relative 1.9m. rise by 2100 projected in 2011 is likely to be revised upward by 20-30% when new projections are released in 2018. Coastal processes, storm surges and sea level rise will combine to produce intolerable conditions on such a fragile coastline. It is impossible to demonstrate that the site will remain resilient until the end of the century and, beyond that, we are in the realm of the unknowable. The idea of a power station and nuclear waste dump must surely be rejected on these grounds alone.
The environment of the Dengie is constantly evolving, with natural adaptation and adjustment occurring in the relationship between land and sea. A new power station would be a massive disruption with potentially catastrophic consequences especially for the estuarial environment with its precious and unique fishing, oysters and bird life. The wild, spiritual isolation of the area would be juxtaposed with the jarring and discordant mass of the nuclear station.
The Application provides evocative detail of the rich and precious complex of ecosystems including salt marshes, reed beds, ancient grazing marshes and deciduous woodlands that provide abundant environments for native and migratory birds, fauna and invertebrates. The salt marshes alone contain ‘outstanding assemblages’ of rare flora and the area supports nearly 7% of the world’s overwintering Brent Geese. It is inconceivable that such a heritage should be disrupted or destroyed by an ugly, unwanted and unnecessary nuclear power station.
SEIZE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO STOP BRADWELL B NOW
Make your views heard now. CGN/EDF has opened a website inviting questions and comments (). Maldon District Council is inviting comments on Planning Application 17/01128 (click here) (See www.maldon.gov.uk and click on Planning and Building Control).
Now is the time to seize the opportunity to stop Bradwell B and to prevent disaster for the Blackwater.