Chinese nuclear developer taking a gamble on premature proposal for Bradwell B
General Nuclear System Limited (GNSL), the Chinese-led company seeking to build a mammoth new nuclear power station at Bradwell, has suddenly announced it will be launching its pre-application public consultation on 4th March 2020. There was no mention of this in the February edition of the Bradwell B Community Newsletter.
This consultation will be taking place long before detailed discussions with the nuclear regulators are concluded and years before an application for development could be made. There are major issues and challenges still to be confronted.
‘It seems that the Chinese developers are taking a risk in trying to present the public and politicians with an apparent ‘fait accompli’ well before major design and environmental hurdles have been crossed’ said Prof. Andy Blowers, Chair of BANNG. ‘This looks like a surprise assault to steamroller the public into acceptance of Bradwell B.’
GNSL greeted the announcement that the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for Bradwell B had begun Step 4 as a major milestone, clearing the path for deployment of Chinese nuclear technology in Britain. That is far from the case. Moving to Step 4 in the GDA is like reaching a hurdle, not passing a milestone. It is at this stage that all the tricky issues facing the Bradwell B project must be confronted, including the cooling system, site suitability, security, coastal defence, impacts on marine and terrestrial environments and so on.
Step 4 is a long and intensive process between the developer and the independent regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA). It is not expected to be concluded for another two years. A pre-application consultation should follow, not overlap, Step 4 of the GDA.
Why is GNSL in such a hurry? The aim might be to put the regulators on the back foot, putting them under pressure to give the nod to the eventual development of the new nuclear power station at the Bradwell site. But the regulators’ primary role is to protect society by securing safe nuclear operations, not to facilitate the Government’s desire for a new nuclear power station to be constructed with Chinese investment at Bradwell. They will be expected to make a measured, detailed assessment urging the developer to respond to the challenges presented by the site.
Or, the aim might be to gain premature legitimation for Bradwell B. In recent months public awareness of climate change and, especially, its impacts on coastal areas has intensified to the point where it is widely believed that, within a relatively short period, areas of the East Anglian Coast, including the Blackwater, will succumb to flooding, storm surges, sea level rise and coastal processes. The uncertainties are so great that conditions are unknowable and it would be perverse to locate a nuclear power station with its attendant dangerous nuclear wastes – which will remain there until the end of the next century – in a coastal location.
Andy Blowers summed up the situation: ‘We have a developer seemingly hellbent on pushing Bradwell B forward with partially developed plans. There are formidable regulatory hurdles to overcome before the project is ready for public consultation. Rather than gamble on getting it done quickly, it would be better to cut and run from a project that may be doomed to disappear.’
Varrie Blowers, Media Relations: +44 (0) 7932 644482