Packed IPC meeting starts decision process on Hinkley C reactors
Over 300 people packed the Sedgemoor Auction Centre near Bridgwater on Wednesday 21 March for the preliminary meeting into EDF's application to construct the Hinkley C nuclear reactor. Many expressed their opposition to the plan because of its dangers, risks and long term legacy of radioactive waste, even though these subjects are expressly excluded from consideration by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in charge of deciding the application.
The IPC, a new body created by the government to fast track large infrastructure projects, says it will take six months to reach its conclusion on Hinkley C. The government has already decided its policy on nuclear power, however, calling for the construction of up to ten power stations around the country, and therefore banned the IPC from considering any issues related to nuclear safety or effects. The final say will rest with the Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey, who has a further three months to reach his decision.
The vast majority of the IPC process will be by written submission, with only a limited number of “open floor” hearings for the public to have its say. These are expected to be held in Stogursey, Combwich, Cannington and Bridgwater, although requests were made for other venues, including Bristol . There will also be some “issue specific” oral hearings on subjects such as the effect on local communities and traffic.
The meeting heard many supporters of Stop Hinkley say that they considered the proposal to be dangerous and unnecessary because of the risks of a serious accident if French EPR reactors were installed and the fact that other energy sources could provide electricity as effectively and more safely. One speaker said that the panel of Commissioners due to consider EDF's case should take on board “the utter and complete opposition to nuclear power from the public”. Stop Hinkley member Charlie Graham said that “people need to be convinced that their involvement will have an effect and be taken into account”.
Stop Hinkley also presented a list of issues which should be considered by the IPC, including the risk of flooding, radioactive waste storage and emergency planning.
The local Councils most affected by the proposal – Sedgemoor and West Somerset – argued that they had inadequate resources to deal with EDF's 30,000 page application and asked for more money or more time to consider it properly. Neither request was granted, although the IPC has still to reach a decision on the timetable.
The IPC panel said it would aim to make a visit to see the construction site before EDF begins its “preliminary works” of removing vegetation and starting to dig the foundations for the reactors. EDF said that the main preliminary work, including the foundations, is expected to take place during the summer.
Outside the venue, Stop Hinkley supporters held flags and banners and handed out leaflets pointing out the subjects which the IPC would not allow to be discussed.
There was strong criticism afterwards of the way in which the meeting was conducted, with Chairman Andrew Phillipson taking a heavy-handed approach to everybody who tried to speak, including local council representatives. Many people were cut off before they had even got going. The venue, designed as a market hall, was totally inappropriate, with poor acoustics and cramped seating. Stop Hinkley issued a press release about the way the meeting was run (Click Here).
If you've registered as an interested party you should be updated about the outcome of the preliminary meeting.