BANNG column for Regional Life, March, 2020.
No sooner had the pre-application public consultation on Bradwell B got under way than it was part-suspended as a result of coronavirus. After a week of visiting places such as Maldon and Bradwell, the Bradwell B (BRB) programme of exhibitions around the Blackwater was halted with ten places still to be visited. But the virus did not kill off the consultation as a whole which ‘otherwise continues as planned’.
Continuing with a much reduced consultation when the country is plunged into focusing on coping with the virus is unrealistic, unconsidered, premature and discriminatory.
Unrealistic because most people will be distracted at this time and responding to plans for a power station that will not be built for many years is very low on the list of their immediate priorities. Indeed, many will be confined to their homes during the crisis and, amid competing demands, unlikely to have time or inclination to respond.
Unconsidered because it leaves the impression that providing full information through face-to-face events so that people have time to formulate considered responses is a part of the process that can be dispensed with. Apparently it is sufficient to visit the company’s website or to visit the few places where documents are made available.
Premature because it still has to pass the tough scrutiny of the nuclear regulators and a successful outcome cannot be assumed. It is clear that the plans are very incomplete. In any case the Bradwell site is only designated until 2025 and the Government has yet to publish its National Policy Statement confirming Bradwell as a ‘potential’ site.
Discriminatory in that those who have had the opportunity to visit exhibitions and discuss the plans with BRB’s staff are advantaged compared to those who will have to rely on online information or on documents that are available at local libraries and Council offices. The fact is that there will be potential respondents who do not have access to online information and who may be unable to get to places where information is provided.
Among the ten locations still to be visited by the exhibition were Mersea, Tollesbury and Brightlingsea, places which have, over the years, expressed strong opposition to the idea of a new nuclear power station at the Bradwell site. The communities on the north side of the Blackwater have been especially concerned about the impact of cooling water on the marine environment, including Colchester Native Oysters and fishing. The proposal to mitigate the impact by indirect cooling through the use of cooling towers in addition to tunnels out into the estuary, by no means allays those fears.
They are also conscious of the potential impact of a major release of radioactivity in the event of an accident. Mersea, especially, but also Brightlingsea, Tollesbury and Colchester itself would lie in the path of a radiation cloud with no easy means of escape.
On the Dengie side of the estuary communities have become alarmed at the scale and impact of the proposal for two mega reactors, associated turbines, transmission lines and long-term radioactive waste stores. In particular this peaceful, ecologically rich and low-lying wetland environment will be trashed to destruction by the pounding of HGVs, the noise, the light pollution of a major construction site for ten years or more.
The scale of this project violates a significant environment, home to marshland, feeding ground for many species of birds, including the iconic Brent Goose, and a historical landscape including the Othona Roman Fort and St Peter’s 7th century chapel, where Christianity came to Essex.
‘All this would be sacrificed on the altar of nuclear energy, to a gigantic power station that, by the time it is built, would be surplus to requirements as the country completes its transition to renewable energy in a net zero carbon world’, said Andy Blowers.
‘The coronavirus has slowed things down throughout the world, yet the nuclear industry still hurtles forward in a desperate bid to build its unwanted and unneeded stations. It must realise the game is up. The half-cock, half-completed Bradwell B consultation must stop as a prelude to stopping Bradwell B itself.’