Nuclear Power No Answer to Climate Change: Hinkley Point – Dawn Blockade

NUCLEAR POWER IS NO ANSWER TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Dawn blockade leaves nuclear workers locked out

At 6 am. this morning 10 protestors blockaded access to EDF energy’s nuclear sites at Hinkley Point, preventing the morning shift from starting work. Four people in arm-locks formed a barrier across the main access road at Wick Moor Drove in a bid to prevent further ground clearance work at the planned Hinkley C site and to protest at EDF’s plan to extend the life of ageing reactors at the Hinkley B station.

Sitting beneath a banner saying “Nuclear Power – not worth the risk”, Bristol tree-surgeon Zoe Smith said, “We want the destruction of land at the proposed Hinkley C site to stop. EDF still don’t have planning permission for the new nuclear plant, the governments energy policy is in tatters. With Centrica pulling out and the long awaited Electricity Reform Act delayed, there is not even enough investment to finish the project. If the Tories fix the electricity price for nuclear so that the project can go ahead it will leave a radioactive waste dump here for hundreds of years.” The early morning blockade caused long tailbacks for scores of workers contracted in to perform maintenance work on the the existing reactors at Hinkley B, EDF have signalled their intention to re-licence the reactor again in 2016.

Bridgwater mum Nikki Clark from South West Against Nuclear said, “Not only do we not need new nuclear, we certainly don’t need to extend the life of the existing reactors even further. Just this year alone reactor no 4 in the B station has scrammed at least three times. EDF like to call these emergency shutdowns ‘unplanned outages’ , but this deliberately conceals the fact that these ageing

reactors are now in a dangerous condition. In 2008 the regulators threatened British Energy with closure of the site. The reactors do not have any fewer cracks in the graphite core now than they did then. Do we have to have our own Fukushima here in Somerset before we abandon this insanity and embrace a renewables revolution in the UK?”

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Theo Simon said, “We support this protest. New nuclear is dead in the water. We need public investment in a renewables revolution which could create a million climate jobs and cut energy bills through a programme of home insulation and energy-efficiency. With its massive marine energy resource, West Somerset is perfectly placed to lead the way in renewables, but EDF’s plans would turn it into a toxic waste dump for our grandchildren.”

http://southwestagainstnuclear.wordpress.com/ 1)

Campaigns such as this are necessary to alert the public, where mainstream media fails us. Dirty Fossil Fuels and wasteful use of energy is churning out carbon dioxide at levels which is catastrophic for the planet. The scientific evidence is clear. To deny it is foolish, and those responsible for funding the argument against fossil fuels are the most foolish of all. The corporate power is nothing – against the power of nature which they seek to deny. Labour Leader Ed Miliband knows this, and it will be at the forefront of Labour’s manifesto. The Liberal Party have sold out any pretence for green issues, and I am at a loss to understand why the Green Party in my constituency stood down at the General Election in favour of the LibDems who support this government. The Coalition government’s policies are short-sighted and foolish. Like ostriches, they seek to deny the truth, and like headless chickens, they panic but will not address the issue. I believe the Labour Party are committed to addressing Climate Change.

3) Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, said:

“David Cameron promised that this government would be the greenest government ever. But this government is not up to the task. We now have a Minister for Energy who is against building new wind turbines – and a government that has delayed crucial decisions on the Green Investment Bank and de-carbonisation targets.

“George Osborne is trying to undermine the Climate Change Act, leading the dash for gas, and pandering to the climate sceptics on the back benches. We even had the spectacle of the campaign manager for one of their by-elections conspiring with the anti-wind farm candidate, and undermining their own candidate.

“Already billions of pounds in investment is going elsewhere or being put on hold. Thanks to this government, the investors who want to invest in our green sector are shutting their wallets or going elsewhere. Since this government came to power, investment in renewable energy hasn’t gone up, it hasn’t even stagnated – it has halved.
When we were in government, we passed the Climate Change Act which gave those investors the certainty they needed to invest. We take climate change seriously. We all have a responsibility to act now rather than expect our children to suffer the consequences. Only this week the World Bank talked of catastrophic flooding, droughts, and millions of deaths if climate change is not addressed.

“Other countries around the world are watching to see whether Britain signs up to the 2030 decarbonisation target. We are not getting leadership from this government in Westminster. All we get is dither and delay.

To the current government, if it is not too late to avert global catastrophe, we must insist on alternatives for energy sources than deriving energy from carbon producing fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas.
Yet the government’s policy:

  1. Encourages a dash for use of gas as a fuel source, (4)

  2. Supports more gas trapped in shale by fracking, with disastrous geological consequences (5) which could cause earthquakes.

  3. Suggests CCS (6) as a clean-coal option (when in reality it will release further methane into the atmosphere, and is not feasible anyway)

  4. Plans to build new nuclear power stations despite the dangers of from contamination by waste, of the dangers of nuclear weapon development, and environmental damaged as evidence by Chernobyl (7) and Fukushima. Ironically, they are encouraging support from the Japanese firm Hitachi. (8)

  5. Is influenced by lobbyists 9) who profit financially from energy corporations.

  6. Proposes to delay Carbon reduction targets until 2016. (10)

The recent Hurricane Sandy, and floods in the UK (11) in Autumn 2012, may be wake up calls for some. In Devon a canal constructed 200 years ago, broke its banks and may be lost forever – indicators that climate change is a reality. ( some scientific evidence here (12).

The solution is to limit energy use, and to invest in renewable energy, which will provide jobs for many and once installed has minimal maintenance costs compare with nuclear and fossil fuels. Energy requirements can be met by wind, solar, wave, HEP, geothermal and tidal. Germany is rejecting nuclear power (15) , yet the UK lags behind. While on a similar latitude to Germany, the Uk has additional resources Germany does not have. There is an enormous source of tidal power at the mouth of the River Severn, and coasts surrounds our islands which could harness wave power. We need to act, and act now, not procrastinate for future governments and our grandchildren, in order to for some to profit today.

We reject nuclear power as an alternative. A major problem is the disposal of dangerous nuclear waste which remains radioactive for centuries. It is not acceptable that we leave our dirty waste for those yet unborn, potentially exposing future generations to the horrific effects of dangerous radioactive waste.

The issue with nuclear waste is that serves no peaceful purpose, yet remains dangerous for many centuries and continues to emit radiation. No matter how we are reassured of the safety of Nuclear Power, accidents happen, and accidents are more likely happen when costs are cut, where profit is the motive.

Support for nuclear energy on financial grounds is flawed. EU calculations for financing nuclear expansion for mining of Uranium in the Ukraine ignores the cost of disposal of the toxic waste 20). Following Fukushima, the The World Bank estimated the cost of the nuclear crisis at $235bn (£144bn) (17, 18, 19)– making it one of the world’s most expensive disasters.

There is also the risk of further accidents occurring in nuclear power stations whether caused by human error as in Chernobyl, or by natural disasters, as in Fukushima as seen in Japan, which resulted from an earthquake.

Nuclear waste can continue to emit radiation for centuries, and it could potentially become unstable, if handled and stored improperly, setting off a chain reaction which could create a nuclear accident. If it fell into the wrong hands, it could be used to make a dirty bomb, which could spread radiation over an inhabited area. Nuclear waste storage focuses on finding safe and secure ways to store spent nuclear fuel and other forms of nuclear waste, until they have stabilized enough to pose no threat to humans, wildlife, and the environment.

Without doubt, we must halt the damage to the world’s climate by the use of carbon-emitting fuels. But to look from one disaster to another is ludicrous, and unnecessary. That we should risk accidents, from geological disaster or terrorism, a dependence on nuclear energy for the future is madness. The risk to life is so huge it should not be contemplated.

  1. South West Against Nuclear
  2. http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/711990
  3. Labour Party: Ed Miliband: By Tackling Climate Change we can be better off together
  4. Guardian Government supports Gas for power
  5. RT: Fracking hell: UK government set to green light risky gas drilling
  6. Think Left: Think Left: Clean Coal (Another Financial Device for the City?)
  7. BBC: Chernobyl: Wildlife study 25 years on
  8. ITV Boost to Britain’s nuclear plans
  9. Guardian Energy Bill and Carbon Target delayed until 2016
  10. The Lost Democracy and the role of Think Tanks
  11. BBC: Man dies and transported disrupted by England’s storms
  12. Think Left Some of the Scientific Evidence – Climate Change
  13. Lessons from Japan: Left Futures
  14. No2NuclearPower
  15. BBC: Germany announces non-nuclear
  16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13592208
  17. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/11/japanese-tsunami-survivors-search-for-mementos
  18. Fukushima: Lethal Levels workers never allowed home
  19. Fukushima Workers find ultra high radiation levels
  20. Think Left: The Energy Trap
  21. EU: Ignoring safety risks in financing nuclear expansion in Ukraine
  22. Think Left: Energy or Tidal
  23. Greenpeace: Why do some Energy Companies support decarbonisation while others support it?

Cameron attacks our hard-won ‘Right to Challenge’

Quote

The rule of law is inherent in democracy whatever the level of governance or public authorities – national or local – as this concept addresses the exercise of power as such and the relationship between the individual and the state, which is a starting point for building any democratic system.

In an extraordinary speech to the CBI conference, David Cameron launched the next phase of the Tory/LD government’s attack on the legal protections afforded to ordinary people … and hence another Tory-led attack on democracy.

Invoking Hitler and the war-time spirit, Cameron announced plans to curb judicial reviews … plans which the Law Gazette reports as creating fury and bewilderment amongst lawyers (1).  These new proposals follow on from the constant calls for the European Convention on Human Rights to be substantially rewritten  and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) which received Royal Assent in May 2012.

A judicial review – review by a court of law of actions of a government official or entity or of some other legally appointed person or body or the review by an appellate court of the decision of a trial court.

Opponents of government decisions and policies would be given less time to apply for judicial review, face higher fees and see the chances to appeal halved.  Also announced was the suspension of Equality Impact Assessments, on the basis that they will cut the number and length of public consultations.  David Cameron justified the proposals on the basis that applications in ‘hopeless cases’ were hindering infrastructure investments and economic growth.

However, lawyers variously described the proposals as ‘a peculiar target’ in the quest for better economic competitiveness; ‘the dark suggestion that the suspension of normal legal process is acceptable’; and ‘a myth’ that judicial review is stopping the government from proceeding with policies to help boost the economy.

Meanwhile, the Public and Commercial Services Union did not mince their words when they accused the UK government of wanting to use these proposals to silence critics over spending cuts (2)  The PCS were not side-lined into believing that these proposals were aimed solely, or even mainly, at planning consent.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “Against the backdrop of the threat of a triple dip recession, this is a clear attempt to restrict ordinary people’s rights to question and challenge this Tory-led government’s unfair and damaging cuts that so obviously are not working. (2)

Nevertheless, speaking about the obvious environmental concerns, The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) points out that’ judicial reviews “are the only means for community groups to challenge decisions to grant planning permission” and that judicial review costs “are already far too excessive for environmental groups to be able to use judicial review to address environmental wrongs”.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive said: “Judicial review is a vital safeguard against poor quality decision-making.  It helps prevent the sort of developments that degrade the environment and, in the long run, undermine the economy. If David Cameron really wants to reduce the use of judicial review, he should try to improve the quality of legislation. For instance, the Growth and Infrastructure Bill now going through Parliament has not benefited from a white paper or from pre-legislative scrutiny. The government is making it up as it goes along.  If passed, decisions based on it are almost certain to end up in the courts.  We need good quality development and we need public consent for new infrastructure.  Panicky announcements of this sort, designed to undermine the credibility of the planning system, will not help us get either.” (3)

(emphasis added)

Martin Tett, leader of Bucks County Council and chairman of the 51m group,the18 councils fighting the HS2 plans, also undermines the government’s case:

“The vast majority of judicial reviews are not about major infrastructure projects but rather relate to immigration and asylum cases…..For local people a judicial reviews may be the only way for local people or businesses to prevent public bodies acting illegally….The recent example of the legal challenge by Virgin Rail to the West Coast Main Line franchise process exposed fundamental flaws in the procedures adopted by the Department for Transport in awarding that and other franchises….Major changes have been made for the public good as a result.”(3)

The Coalition for Access to Justice for the Environment, an umbrella group that includes WWF-UK, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the RSPB (CAJE) condemned the move, warning that it could “destabilise democracy and undercut the UK’s obligations on public participation and access to environmental justice under EU and International environmental law”. (3)

The CAJE says the UK has already breached EU and international law because of the high costs of legal action for environmental cases and is due to appear before the European Court on this point early in 2013. It warns that moves to reduce the opportunities to appeal against a decision to refuse an application for JR could also “endanger compliance with EU law”.  Furthermore, reducing the time limit within which people can bring challenges is “unrealistic” and could require changes to primary legislation.

Carol Day, WWF solicitor, said: “These proposals are hastily thought-through and seriously misguided. Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said:
 
“The planning system … mustn’t become a scapegoat for the government’s economic failings.”

This is all of a piece with other far-reaching government moves to curtail the rights of individuals.  Michael Meacher MP writes:

… there is a host of other, little-noted,  changes in this week’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which will severely curtail workers’ rights.   The cap for compensation in unfair dismissal cases is being significantly lowered.   There is much reduced protection for workplace whistleblowers, which will allow more abuses at work to go unreported…. The government is introducing regulations requiring claimants to provide prescribed information when using ACAS conciliation services… a deliberately nitpicking hurdle inserted, as in the notorious pre-strike procedure, to enable judges to abort action on a technicality…. Whistle-blowing claims will only be successful in future if the worker believed that the disclosure was made in the public interest and can demonstrate it was reasonable for him to believe that.   One effect of that will be that it will limit the protection for workers who raise concerns about health and safety issues.   The regulations will also in future allow a judge who has (subjectively) decided that a claim has little reasonable prospect of success to require a deposit of £1,000 to be laid before the claim can proceed.   This will make it much harder (as was of course intended) for some claims to proceed even when in the event they would have won through. (4)

At the time of the legal aid bill’s final reading, there was comparatively little reporting or discussion, given the magnitude of its implications.  Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said of the government’s legal aid bill (LASPO) when it was passed:

“This is a dark day for justice in the UK, and internationally. The government has placed legal remedy beyond the reach of human rights victims and slammed the doors of the UK courts shut on them.
“These changes are an open invitation to huge multinationals to operate with impunity around the world, as they can be confident they won’t be challenged or held to account in a UK court.”(5) 

However, attempts by the House of Lords, to mitigate the impact of the ministers’ plans to cut legal aid in England and Wales, were overturned by the Tory/LD MPs when the legislation was returned to the House of Commons.  The Lord’s amendments would have protected children, domestic violence victims and disabled people from the worst of the legal aid cuts.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said “To cut legal aid at a time of unprecedented changes to welfare support would mean disabled people who fall foul of poor decision-making, red tape or administrative error being pushed even further into poverty as they struggle to manoeuvre the complicated legal system without the necessary expert support they need.”

The parent of a 48-year-old daughter with learning difficulties and other health issues, summed up the situation ‘Legal aid bill ‘puts most vulnerable at risk’:

“It is, sadly, getting worse by the day. However, it is not the result of a genuine error, or rushed policy-making, but of a deliberate and callous plan.

The coalition knew full well that its planned attack on the benefits of the disabled and the weak would lead to a huge rise in challenges, supported by legal aid. It was also well aware that the cuts were going to be so callous that 90% of those affected who secured legal representation would win their cases and have their benefits reinstated. So the link between the introduction of the benefits cuts and legal aid cuts was deliberate, and it started from the first day that David Cameron arrived in Downing Street.

In the short period of time since then, people with serious disabilities have gone from being “poor dears” to “scrounging bastards”. The rightwing press has helped in the preparation for the cuts in legal aid and the increasing attacks on the wellbeing of vulnerable people. Here in Barnet, Tory councillors are planning to make a profit from disabled services – and the only way they can make that profit is by destroying or cutting back to the bone their support services.

The attack on benefit claimants by this coalition government, along with the junta-style assessment panel, is for one purpose only, and that is to save money, no matter the human cost.

John Sullivan
Edgware, Middlesex (6)

 

Polly Toynbee reports another quiet change to the law – that protecting homeless families, Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012.

The change allows a local housing authority to discharge its duty by offering the applicant a suitable property let on an assured shorthold tenancy from a private landlord. Unlike the current position, where an applicant can refuse an assured shorthold without losing his or her entitlement, refusal of this offer will now bring the duty to an end.(7)

 

All a council need do is find a private landlord anywhere with a one-year lease, and wash their hands of them thereafter. Families can be housed anywhere with an “affordable” rent, hundreds of miles away in districts where rents are cheap because jobs are non-existent. Wrench children out of schools, parents from their jobs, take families away from where they lived for generations without the means to pay train fares for visits home – all this breaks the social contract on housing. So do the deep cuts in housing benefit: this week, regulations were laid that will set off a catastrophic and chaotic exodus in April. There is no legal definition of an “affordable” rent, but most people might presume it should never eat into the absolute minimum the state provides to keep a family alive. Yet, even after families are exported, many of these “affordable” rents will leave them with virtually no money to live on. One estimate finds only Middlesbrough has rents low enough for a family with four children to pay up and still keep the sum unemployment benefits are supposed to provide for bare survival. (8)

 

As Polly Toynbee writes: ‘Britain keeps plunging further back in time as yet another plank of the welfare state is removed.’

With their proposals to limit judicial reviews, the government has followed its usual pattern of devising legislation without reference to those experts in the field.  In this instance, without taking advice from lawyers, hence their ‘fury and bewilderment’.  But this was also the case, with the Health and Social Care bill, the Welfare Reform bill and the perpetual changes wrought by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

Furthermore, just as George Osborne’s austerity measures were/are contingent on the population being persuaded that the global banking crisis was in fact the result of government overspending, Cameron invites us to believe that ‘planning red tape holding back economic growth’ is the rationale for the draconian proposals limiting access to judicial review.  Under this guise, they hope that these measures will be quietly slipped past the mainstream media.

The overall strategy seems to be to cut the ‘provision’ and then make a legal appeal almost impossible by increasing its cost, removing legal aid, reducing the time frame and if possible removing the decision from the courts altogether.

This dismantling of the judicial review process is yet further example of the disregard with which this Tory/LD government treats the democratic process and the protection of UK citizens.  It appears that the Tories act solely on behalf of finance and corporations.  The evidence all suggests that their ultimate aim is to create a low-waged economy with minimal protection or benefits – a UK workforce that will be on a par with, and presumably as profitable for the super-rich as are, the BRIC countries such as India and China.

Far from being about ‘speeding up planning consent’, the curbs on judicial review will impact on every aspect of the relationship between the individual and the state – from disability benefits to the environment; from safety at work to the dismantling of the NHS; from asylum seekers to homeless families.  These changes must be opposed.

(1) Fury and bewilderment at plans to curb judicial reviews

(2)  UK govt. accused of silencing critics over cuts

(3) http://planningblog.planningresource.co.uk/2012/11/20/reaction-to-camerons-red-tape-cutting-proposals/#more-6737

(4)  http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2012/10/government-attack-on-job-rights-goes-far-wider-than-beecroft/#more-4403

(5)  http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20025

(6)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/19/cuts-services-legal-aid-linked

(7)  http://laghousinglaw.com/2012/11/02/homelessness-changes/

(8)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/22/2013-boom-year-bailiffs-slum-landlords