Press Release – 16 February, 2021
The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) considers the announcement by BRB, the UK division of China General Nuclear (CGN), that engagement and all active project work on Bradwell B will be paused for at least a year indicates a significant reversal for the project. Despite urging the developer to suspend public engagement during the pandemic, BANNG was told the national need was ‘urgent’ and it was in the public interest that the proposed development ‘is not indefinitely or even substantially delayed’.
‘Now it seems, the project is slowing down and no longer so vital. The indefinite pause makes one wonder if this could be the beginning of the end for a project for which there is no vital need and which will create irretrievable damage and danger to the coastal communities of Essex’, said Prof. Andy Blowers, Chair of BANNG.
Until a year ago CGN was claiming it was ramping up its plans for Bradwell B to take pole position in the UK’s civil nuclear programme as other projects fell by the wayside. This acceleration has apparently been impeded by the problem of travel for engineers between the UK and China during the pandemic and the risk that work is being delayed and getting out of sequence. It may be that this is the precipitating cause of the delay but there were already signs that the project was encountering difficulties that could lead to ultimate abandonment.
First among these was the massively negative public reaction to the proposals that were revealed on the eve of the first lockdown. People were shocked by the sheer scale of the project and its massive impact on environment, communities and wellbeing. Even the Environment Agency (EA) was scathing in its criticism emphasising the contrast between the plan’s economic ambitions and the inadequate ambition for the environment and lack of detailed information given by the developer.
In the last few weeks the EA has produced a cautious assessment of the reactors planned for Bradwell indicating there are a number of issues to be resolved before the project gets design approval.
On top of this came the loss of political support. Initially, all the main local authorities welcomed the power station for the potential jobs and wealth it would bring but making clear support was contingent on environmental protection and improvement. First Colchester Borough and then Maldon District, which had been a major protagonist for Bradwell B, declared total opposition to the proposals. Maldon went further, turning down BRB’s planning application for land investigations at the site. The company has appealed but the long delay by the planning inspector in determining the appeal suggests there may be problems with environmental impacts.
Elsewhere, the nuclear industry is running into trouble. The recent decision by the infrastructure planning inspectorate to recommend refusal of planning for the Wylfa project in North Wales on environmental grounds bodes ill for both Sizewell and Bradwell where environmental sensitivities are at least as strong. The threat to the iconic Colchester Native Oyster and Brent Geese are among the many environmental impacts posed by Bradwell B.
The potential suitability of the Bradwell site has long been contested by BANNG and it is currently under review by the Government. Recent climate change predictions indicate that the site could be overwhelmed by sea-level rise and storm surges before the end of this century and well before the site could be cleared of spent fuel and other highly radioactive wastes during the next century.
And the Government’s support for nuclear power as set out in its Energy White Paper is hardly evangelical: the Government ‘will remain open to other projects if the nuclear industry demonstrates that it is able to reduce costs and deliver to time and budget’. On Bradwell B specifically the White Paper is silent.
Lastly, in the geopolitical sphere, there are serious concerns about security risks in inviting Chinese participation in the development of the UK’s critical infrastructure. It is quite possible, some would say likely, that the project will be withdrawn as part of the fall out in deteriorating Chinese and UK relations.
Andy Blowers commented: ‘Taking all these issues together, it is quite possible that the pause will provide the prelude to final abandonment of the project. Covid-19 may be the final straw. For far too long this black cloud has been hanging over the Blackwater. At last there are signs of a silver lining’.
For further information, please contact:
Varrie Blowers, Secretary & Press Officer, BANNG: firstname.lastname@example.org / +44(0)7932.644482