Shut Oldbury Press Release

Oldbury set for nuclear expansion

Shut Oldbury campaigners are angry with Government plans to sell off land at Oldbury to build a second nuclear reactor. The state-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) today set in motion the auction of land adjacent to Oldbury and two other UK nuclear power stations. German energy giant E.ON has already declared an interest in building a reactor at the site and agreed with National Grid to establish new upgraded connections to the power grid. But Shut Oldbury campaigners say a new reactor on the Severn could be dangerous (1) and harmful to local people's health (2). They add that the NDA is jumping the gun as the results of a consultation on potential nuclear sites have not yet been announced.

Two reactor designs are currently being examined by nuclear safety inspectors but have not yet been built. One, the European Pressurised Reactor, is in progress in Finland and France but has been subject to long delays and controversy over poor construction standards (3). It is expected to use more dangerous 'high burn-up' fuel with nearly double the radioactivity of existing reactors. This would also mean the spent fuel would be stored for much longer than the expected life of 55 to 60 years at the Oldbury site.

The only alternative design, the Westinghouse AP1000 has 'novel' cost-cutting safety features that have not been tried in a reactor and would eliminate 70 percent of the standard safety mechanisms thought essential in the UK 's last nuclear reactor, Sizewell B.

Both reactors would pour radioactive waste into the Severn and into the atmosphere, potentially causing health effects in those living nearby. Local studies sponsored by the Shut Oldbury Campaign have shown extra breast and prostate cancers and leukaemia in nearby populations.

The Government closed its 'Strategic Siting Assessment' consultation at the end of November and is unlikely to announce its findings till 2010. The NDA plan seems to predict the outcome of this consultation by offering Oldbury for sale to nuclear developers. Campaigners have said in their submission that estuary sites such as Oldbury and Hinkley are unsuitable due to the health impact on local populations observed in numerous studies. Moreover they are close to large populations which would be impossible to evacuate in the event of a serious accident or act of terrorism. Oldbury is just 12 miles from Bristol city centre and six miles from its suburbs.

The NDA's purpose is to decommission and clean up old nuclear sites paid for by Government funds but also by generating electricity from Oldbury and Wylfa (in Wales) nuclear power stations and operating reprocessing plants at Sellafield. Despite high electricity prices, Oldbury's contribution has been minimal due to only running one of its twin reactors at a time for five years due to safety concerns. The NDA's income has also been afflicted by the closure of THORP reprocessing plant which shut for three years due to a massive unseen radioactive leak. So the NDA is trying to raise cash towards its estimated £83 billion clean-up operation by selling land to build more nuclear power stations.

Jim Duffy, Coordinator of the Shut Oldbury Campaign said:

"The cash-strapped NDA is trying to solve its funding problems by selling land which has higher value for building new nuclear power stations. But this will mean even more expensive clean-up and nuclear waste management in the future which is a gamble as new operators could go bankrupt, as both BNFL and British Energy did, leaving taxpayers with the cost again."

"Besides, building a giant reactor with its dangerous fuel so close to a city is just asking for trouble and will also effectively make Oldbury a nuclear dump for generations. The health effects of local radiation pollution will add to the existing toll of cancers and leukaemia. Nuclear expansion at Oldbury is a very bad idea. Let's strive for cleaner, safer means of producing our electricity."

Jim Duffy, Shut Oldbury/Stop Hinkley


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(1) Click here for outline of safety concerns over the European Pressurised Reactor, Dr John Large, nuclear consultant.

(2) Click here for Stop Hinkley response to the Stategic Siting Assessment consultation:

(3) Click here for Greenpeace article on construction problems with the EPR








Page Updated 27-Nov-2008