Andy Blowers, Chair of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), has written to the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, in advance of his State Visit to the UK on 20-23 October, urging him not to proceed any further with plans for investment in a new nuclear power station at Bradwell. Before any further commitment is made, Chinese representatives are being invited to come to talk with local communities and listen to their objections to any proposals for new nuclear development.
The letter states: ‘Before your Government takes the matter any further, I urge you to consider whether it would be worth proceeding with such a difficult project. It is understood that your interest in Bradwell is motivated by the view that if a reactor of Chinese design gains approval through the UK’s independent and rigorous regulatory system it would open up market opportunities for similar reactors elsewhere. However, this presupposes that the reactor, along with spent fuel storage and other facilities would secure consent at all stages of regulation – design assessment, environmental permit and planning consent. This would be a very time-consuming and tough process. Given the circumstances of the site, it is by no means certain that a new nuclear power station at Bradwell would be permitted.
Before any further commitment is made to Bradwell, may I suggest that the operating companies make their intentions clear and undertake to engage with the local communities on their plans? It would be helpful to know how many reactors and their generating capacity, together with some idea of the cooling water volumes and sources, emissions and discharges, are envisaged. An indication of how spent fuel and other wastes will be managed on the site into the next century would be welcomed. Further, some idea of the scale of construction and its impacts on a peaceful estuary would be of interest to the public.
Accordingly, I should like to invite representatives to come to discuss their plans with local representatives and to listen to our concerns and reasons why this project should not proceed at the Bradwell site’.
Andy Blowers has written simultaneously and in similar vein to Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting President Xi Jinping’s visit. In this letter he states:
‘Given that the project will face many difficulties in securing approval …and will, in any case, encounter strong public opposition, I believe the wise course of action would be for the two governments to withdraw now rather than face the probability of having to withdraw later.
I fully appreciate that your Government has expressed its interest in attracting Chinese investment in UK infrastructure projects. However, building a new nuclear power station at Bradwell would be a project fraught with difficulty and is likely to arouse widespread opposition from nearby communities.
The grounds for opposition are well known and the project is likely to fail for a number of reasons. Our opposition focuses not on who develops the site but on whether it should be a candidate for development at all.
What is most worrying is that a new nuclear power station, if approved, is likely to be generating for sixty years and daughter stations may be envisaged which might have operating lifetimes well beyond the end of the century. However, it is envisaged that spent fuel and other wastes would be stored on site well beyond the middle of the next century and, perhaps, indefinitely given that the longer term management of nuclear wastes remains unclear. It is difficult to envisage any circumstances in which regulators would be prepared to condone storage of such dangerous materials on a site where conditions in the far future are unknowable.
I understand that among the reasons the Chinese companies might be encouraged to consider development at Bradwell is that if a station to their design met with UK regulatory approval it would open up the potential for marketing Chinese reactors in other western markets. However,…..The UK regulators are regarded as both robust and independent and there can be no guarantee of success. The problems raised by the Bradwell site suggest approval might well be withheld’.
Development at Bradwell would be a ‘public relations disaster’
The letter continues: ‘For all the reasons I have outlined, I urge you during the forthcoming visit of the Chinese President to indicate that developing a new nuclear power station at Bradwell faces formidable obstacles that may prove impossible to overcome. More than that, such a development would meet with determined and informed opposition and render the proposal a public relations disaster. Withdrawal of the Bradwell project from the Heads of Agreement would seem to be the appropriate course of action at this stage’.
BANNG has been gearing up for the Chinese visit for many months. It has issued a hard-hitting Newsletter to its supporters emphasising the problems the project faces. ‘We are ready now to take our opposition all the way. We hope the Chinese will understand what a difficult and embarrassing project this could turn out to be for them. But, if they do proceed we will respond at every stage, beginning with design assessment next year. At some point, sooner or later, the project will fail and we will be there to ensure it does’.