Greenpeace takes government to court over nuclear power expansion

Last edited 26 August 2011 at 3:28pm
26 August, 2011

Greenpeace UK has today served legal papers on the government for unlawfully failing to take into account the implications of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in their future planning for the building of new nuclear power stations at sites in Britain.

In a 1611 page legal submission to the High Court, Greenpeace is seeking a Judicial Review of the government’s decision not to take into account specialist advice on the implications of the Fukushima disaster on future reactors, which it has an obligation to do. The case made by Greenpeace against the government and the secretary of state Chris Huhne includes:

  • That the secretary of state unlawfully chose to press ahead with his plans for new nuclear reactors at eight sites in England and Wales (through the Nuclear National Policy Statement) without waiting to take into account relevant considerations arising from the Fukushima disaster.
  • That the government appears to have regarded Dr Mike Weightman’s Interim Report into the lessons from Fukushima as a ‘green light’ for proceeding with the Nuclear National Policy Statement even though that the report highlighted areas of serious concern requiring further investigation and that Dr Weightman’s review remains ongoing.
  • That communications between government officials and nuclear companies seems to show that there was no real intention to properly consider the implications of the disturbing events at Fukushima with an open mind as to what careful analysis of those events and their aftermath might reveal about the safety of nuclear power and the UK’s ability to respond to a major nuclear incident.
  • That he failed to fully consider all the risks of flooding to a nuclear site despite the evidence of how flooding affected operations at Fukishima. Five of the eight sites identified for new reactors are wholly or partly in areas classified by the Environment Agency as being areas of high flood risk.
  • That he failed to wait for analysis of the lessons from Fukushima on how electricity supply, both on and off site, including back up sources and supplies can be guaranteed in the event of an emergency over suitably long timescales in order to provide vital cooling for reactors. The root causes for the Fukushima station blackout and loss of power supply have not yet been properly analysed.
  • That the Nuclear National Policy Statement fails to fully consider the lessons from Fukushima on the need for emergency planning for on and off site consequences of a nuclear accident involving a much wider emergency situation with radiation releases over a prolonged time and involving a need to evacuate and re-house large numbers of people. The Japanese emergency planning system demonstrably failed to provide early and sufficient protection for the civilian population in Japan.

Commenting on the legal case John Sauven, Greenpeace Executive Director said:

“The tragic events of Fukushima have been a catalyst for governments around the world to look again at the safety and viability of their nuclear plans. Instead of following the lead of countries like Germany, our government has recklessly decided to push ahead with new nuclear power without properly taking into account many of the lessons from Fukushima or wider implications for the nuclear industry.

"We believe the government’s failure to properly consult experts and the public after the Fukushima tragedy amounts to a dangerous attempt to cut corners and carve out voices of concern, in order to keep pushing forward with its favoured technology. We think they should be challenged on this.

"Following Fukushima, a number of countries decided nuclear power wasn’t worth the risk or increased costs and focused on safer, clean renewable technologies. Instead in Britain, despite election promises, the coalition government is planning hundreds of millions of pounds more in hidden subsidies for the nuclear industry and dragging its heels on creating the green jobs and growth we need. This judicial review should act as wake up call for the government to think again to stop closing ranks with the nuclear industry and properly consult.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

UK governments have a long record of failure to properly or fairly consult on nuclear issues.

  • In February 2007 Greenpeace was successful in its application for judicial review of the then government’s decision to give policy support to nuclear power. The court held that the decision not give support to nuclear power was in breach of Greenpeace’s legitimate expectation of full consultation.
  • In May 2007, the government published a new consultation on the Future of Nuclear Power. A complaint by Greenpeace and other NGOs was upheld by the Market Research Standards Board which found that “..there were a number of examples where they considered that objectively viewed, information was inaccurately or misleadingly presented, or was imbalanced, which gave rise to a material risk of respondents being led towards a particular answer.”

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