It is now pretty clear that David Cameron will sign an agreement with the Chinese Government, at the time of the State Visit of President Xi Jinping in October, that will enable two Chinese state-owned nuclear companies to develop the site at Bradwell which is currently owned by EdF.
Development is likely to happen rather quicker than anyone might have imagined as, given the financial problems and delays with Hinkley Point, the Bradwell site may well get top priority as the Government is anxious to lever in Chinese investment. ‘Cameron’s folly means the sacrifice of the Blackwater estuary,’ said Professor Andy Blowers, Chair of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG).
The Chinese want to use their own nuclear reactor, the 1150 MWe Hualong One. It is intended to apply for Generic Design Assessment (GDA) to gain safety approval for their design from the UK regulators in 2016.
Andy Blowers said: ‘For the Chinese this would be a showcase project which, if approved in the UK, would be used as a commercial launching pad for selling their reactors in other parts of the world. For the UK Government, it is a vanity project as it seems they will fall over backwards to bring Chinese investment into the UK. For the Blackwater estuary, it is extremely bad news. Basically, the estuary will be trashed if this goes ahead.
‘BANNG is ready, our opposition has been long established, well researched, entrenched and commands widespread support around the estuary. This love-in between the British and Chinese Governments takes absolutely no account of the impact and implications that will be unleashed on the Blackwater estuary. The obstacles, including the problems of cooling water from such a shallow estuary, are massive’.
Professor Barry Jones, a BANNG Core Group member from Tollesbury said: ‘It is unclear if the Chinese companies are aware of the substantially increased costs they will incur to protect the site against flooding and to provide enhanced evacuation facilities for Mersea Island, Tollesbury and other places around the estuary’.
There is also the question of allowing the Chinese Government to be involved in the British nuclear industry. Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford University, in his paper British Energy Policy – what happens next? (June, 2015), draws attention to the military and security issues of letting Chinese state-owned companies into the heart of the British nuclear industry, which he calls ‘so sensitive a national project’.
‘While the Government says that nuclear power is absolutely necessary to national security, there must be a security risk in inviting foreign powers to take over our country’s nuclear infrastructure,’ said Andy Blowers.
Barry Turner, Vice Chair of BANNG, commented: ‘For BANNG, the simple fact is that the Bradwell site is totally unsuitable for a new power station no matter who the developer might be. The delicate Blackwater estuary cannot cope with the demands of a new nuclear power station without its effective destruction. The long-term risks from rising sea-levels and coastal change will be phenomenal leaving not only a power station with all its inherent dangers but an everlasting residue of dangerous radioactive wastes on a site that is likely to disappear over the next two centuries. There is no thought for the future in this and it is immoral to be undertaking such an enterprise on such a location. Bringing such a monster to the Blackwater is nothing short of monstrous’.
At Bradwell, the new nuclear power station will sit alongside the hulk of the former power station and the intermediate-level waste (ILW) store, which the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) wishes to turn into a regional facility. The local authorities on the Dengie Peninsula have plans to call the area ‘the salt-marsh coast’ in order to attract tourism.
Opposing the proposal by Magnox to extend the period of radioactive discharges into the Blackwater could help in the campaign against Chinese development .
Communities around the Blackwater are not only having to digest the news about Chinese nuclear development at Bradwell but are also currently having to put up with radioactive discharges into the estuary arising from the dissolution of fuel element debris (FED). There has been a significant number of responses to the ‘consultation’ by the Environment Agency (EA) on the application by Magnox to extend the period of these discharges from 12 months to 24.
The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) has set up an e-Petition against the discharges.
BANNG would urge as many people as possible to sign this Petition. If enough people do so, this will show the EA the depth of public concern about the discharges and will also show the UK and Chinese Governments that there is a groundswell of opposition to any further nuclear mess in the Blackwater estuary. (In 2011 BANNG handed over to the then Energy Minister a Petition with 10,000 signatures, collected face-to-face, opposing new nuclear build at Bradwell and the associated long-term storage of spent fuel on the site.)
‘Members of the public can also become registered BANNG supporters and I would encourage anyone who cares about the Blackwater to join us in the campaign against any Chinese nuclear development at Bradwell and against radioactive discharges into the estuary,’ urged BANNG Secretary, Varrie Blowers.
The link for the e-Petition against discharges into the Blackwater is: