The Government has now given the go-ahead for the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for the Chinese Hualong 1 reactor, proposed for use at a new nuclear power station at Bradwell (Bradwell B). This represents the first step in the approvals process by the UK’s nuclear regulators. The GDA will take several years to complete and it is reported that the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) is not yet in a position to commence the process. With GDA theoretically starting, the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) felt it would be timely to remind readers about what we are doing.
Since BANNG was founded in 2008, I have eschewed retirement to take on a very busy, unpaid, working life as Secretary and Media Relations Officer for the group. I knew I disagreed with the building of new nuclear power stations and the production of yet more radioactive wastes, the management of which will be a heavy burden on future generations but I have been on a steep learning curve and my life has not turned out as I thought it would. I never imagined that in my sixties I would be marching with others along the beach at West Mersea dressed as a crate of nuclear waste (with my husband acting as the Grim Reaper) or that I, with others, would be disembarked on the beach outside the former Bradwell station to tempt sunbathers to sign the BANNG Petition. We thought we would encounter hostility but, in fact, only one man refused to sign. His reasons had nothing to do with nuclear power: he took great exception to the yachts on which we had sailed over from Mersea.
Since its inception, BANNG has been opposing new nuclear development at Bradwell and has built up a formidable and committed group of supporters and portfolio of expertise and information. We lobby Government and local councils, talk with regulators and confront the nuclear industry. We have engaged with the public through our website (banng.info), social media, radio, TV and Public Meetings with expert speakers.
At our next Public Meeting, to be held at Maldon on 25 April (see box), three well-known experts will be speaking on why new nuclear power at Bradwell makes no sense. Professor Stephen Thomas of the University of Greenwich will argue that the project is too expensive and unlikely to happen; Professor Andy Blowers, Open University, Chair of BANNG and author of The Legacy of Nuclear Power (Routledge, 2017), will speak on why the Bradwell site is unacceptable; and Professor Keith Barnham, Nuclear Physicist of Imperial College, London and author of The Burning Issue: A User’s Guide to the Solar Revolution (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2015), will show why a renewables future is the way forward for energy.
One of our major achievements was the face-to-face collection of 10,000 signatures for our Petition against new nuclear build at Bradwell and the long-term storage of highly radioactive spent fuel there. We believe that this Petition represents the only extensive survey of local attitudes to new nuclear development in the country. Signatures were collected from around the Blackwater estuary, even in Bradwell Village itself, where we were surprised that of around half of those contacted signed. We presented the Petition to the Minister for Energy in Whitehall in 2011.
Now that the GDA process will go-ahead, we are resuscitating our Petition. It can be found on the Home Page of the website and we are also collecting signatures, face-to-face.
BANNG has responded to the majority of Government, nuclear industry and other nuclear consultations and has built up a research and resource base comprising thirty-two papers.
We work with Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, who also opposes Bradwell B, and recently we received confirmation that Colchester Borough Council (CBC) opposes new nuclear development and the long-term storage of nuclear wastes at Bradwell.
I have often heard that as the old station appeared not to have any problems, it is OK to have a new one. Firstly, the old station did have problems, it is just that little was said about them. And, secondly, the most dangerous waste, the highly radioactive spent fuel was all removed to Sellafield. It is important to stress that it is not only a new power station that could come to Bradwell: the spent fuel produced will be stored on the site until at least the middle of the next century, long after the power station closes. It will take at least 50 years to cool down and is too dangerous to move during this time.
In any case there is, as yet, nowhere to move it to; no national repository is yet in sight. Even if a repository does get built – and it is a big ‘if’ – it will be needed to take the massive accumulation of dangerous wastes we already have, not those arising from possible, future nuclear stations.
BANNG believes that the Bradwell site is totally unsuitable for new nuclear development: it is low-lying, on a shallow estuary and the site is liable to inundation in the longer term. Climate change predictions covering sea-level rise, storm surges and flooding have been made only up to the end of this century. No-one knows what the state of the Bradwell site will be in the middle of the next century, when it is likely that highly dangerous nuclear wastes will still be stored there. We are also concerned about the prospect of severe damage to the marine environment.
The aspect of the beautiful, fragile Blackwater estuary could be changed totally with the hulk of the old station and one or two new stations on the Dengie Peninsula. Reactors may require large cooling towers which would also disfigure the low-lying landscape.
I hope this article will have helped to remind you of what BANNG is and of what it does. I hope, too, that it will help you to understand why many of us believe that Bradwell B should not be built. Please come to the Public Meeting in Maldon on 25 April. One of the speakers will be showing that there is a different way forward and no need for new nuclear power.