Press Release – 26 July, 2021
The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) has welcomed the news of the possible withdrawal of the Chinese project to build a gigantic nuclear power station at Bradwell but has struck a note of caution.
‘BANNG has campaigned against a new nuclear power station at Bradwell for the past 13 years’, said Andy Blowers, Chair of BANNG. The news that the Chinese company developing the site may be under pressure to withdraw comes as little surprise and has looked on the cards for some while especially since CGN, the majority shareholder, announced a pause in the development in February. We believe the Bradwell site is unsuitable, unsustainable and unacceptable – whoever proposes to develop it. We must remain vigilant and continue to oppose any further nuclear development at this site’.
BANNG’s statement follows reports in The Financial Times (FT) and other media outlets that the Government is considering how to remove China’s state-owned nuclear company, China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN), from involvement in the UK’s nuclear power projects. This follows security concerns about increasing Chinese economic investment into sensitive UK infrastructure, as well as anxiety about Chinese interference in Hong Kong and its relations with the Uighur people. It is also clear that the US is leaning heavily on the UK Government pressing for it to adopt a more wary approach to Chinese investment.
Quite aside from the Government’s concerns, BANNG has long argued that the project is doomed for other reasons, not the least of which has been the overwhelmingly hostile reaction of the communities led by BANNG around the Blackwater. Plans for Bradwell B were launched just as the Covid-19 pandemic broke and shocked the public by the sheer scale of the project and its devastating impact on environment, communities and wellbeing. The development encountered strong local political opposition with Maldon District Council, which had for many years supported it, declaring its opposition and Colchester Borough Council Councillors unanimously declaring theirs. West Mersea Town Council is also opposed and others have consistently voiced concerns.
Last December’s Energy White Paper gave a less than ringing endorsement to new nuclear power and Bradwell did not receive a mention as a potential future development.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Hualong reactors have been going through the Generic Desgin Assessment which will pronounce on whether the technology is safe to operate in the difficult coastal conditions of the Blackwater. A clean bill of health is by no means assured.
Further, recent events at the Taishan nuclear power plant in China where the reactor was found to have serious issues with fuel rods do not bode well for Chinese attitudes to safety concerns. EdF, which holds a 30% stake in Taishan, has been quoted in the FT as saying that it would have shut down the reactor had it been in France. However, the Taishan reactor is majority controlled by CGN which decided to continue operating the plant.
Above all, the Bradwell site is wholly unsuitable, threatened by climate change impacts which will make it vulnerable to inundation, coastal erosion and potential destruction while dangerous materials remain on site in the unknowable conditions towards the end of this century and beyond.
All of this seems to indicate that CGN’s hope of building and operating Chinese-designed reactors at Bradwell is doomed.
The FT quotes an unnamed official as saying that there is not ‘a chance in hell of Bradwell being built’. But before the disappearance of the Chinese project is cheered, it should be remembered that the site will presumably still apparently be available for nuclear activities. It emerged recently that Bradwell is on the list of possible sites for the UK’s prototype fusion energy plant and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) may be a distant possibility.
‘Until Bradwell is removed from the Government’s list of sites potentially suitable for nuclear development we must remain vigilant’, said Andy Blowers. ‘And the site must be removed for all the reasons we have consistently given’.