Hitachi- from the country that brought the world Fukushima

Hitachi- from the country that brought the world Fukushima
We feel very sad for the people of Japan who want to end nuclear energy whilst a potential new government and big business are desperate for it

No Fukushima at Oldbury

No to Fukushima at Shepperdine!

No to Fukushima at Shepperdine!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Lord Cope of Berkeley Speaks at the House of Lords----

The Rt. Hon. Lord Cope of Berkeley +

Speech on Draft National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation (EN-6)

Grand Committee*, House of Lords 9th March 2010.

My Lords:

I have long been a supporter of Nuclear Power generation. When I was a Member of another place there were two Nuclear Power Stations in my constituency, Berkeley and Oldbury. We lived between the two and I was a supporter then and still am.

I welcome therefore the fact that the Government are now belatedly considering the matter after wasting a decade as my Noble Friend Lord Jenkin said. He spoke about the wider scene I want to talk about one detail.

I recognise too that the planning process for such large facilities was in need of improvement. Objectors should be able to have their say, but it is not in the national interest that they and their lawyers should be able to delay great projects for many years.

So I accept the framework of what we are talking about today. However when autocratic powers are in place it is essential that they are used with due care for the opinions of the citizens. Anything else is a failure of democracy.

This is why I am sad to say this document is badly flawed in at least one respect. That is in respect of what I know best which is the proposals about Oldbury on Severn or more accurately next door in Shepperdine. The present Magnox Station was opened in 1967 with an enthusiastic speech in favour of nuclear power from the then Minister – ‘Tony Benn. It will not be generating much longer. The power station has been entirely accepted for many years by the local people. Successive managers and their teams have worked hard to cultivate good relations. Many visitors and every local organisation for 30 miles round which organises outings, have been shown over the Power Station and come away both reassured about safety and impressed with the fact that it produces such large quantities of electricity so cheaply – enough to power the whole City of Bristol one and a half times over.

It is therefore at first sight surprising that every local council and many other bodies are firmly opposed to the ideas in this document about building a replacement station. But, in spite of the local jobs it will save and create, they are opposed and so am I.

We are not opposed to any replacement of Oldbury Power Station, but to the specific proposals in this Strategy document.

The most important reason concerns the cooling arrangements proposed. The present station was built at Oldbury because it could be cooled by the water from the Severn on whose banks it stands. The same was true of Berkeley up stream and Hinkley Point down stream on the Severn.

At Oldbury the river is about two miles wide and there is an enormous tidal range.

However the new proposals reject the idea of using the river water for cooling [para 5.12.75, page 201]. You may think as I do that, as the available river cooling water was the point of choosing the Oldbury site in the first place, that would rule out using the site for a new station, but no. The idea in this document is to build cooling towers instead as if it were an inland power station. That is the key reason why the local representatives and people are against it.

There are proposed to be up to four cooling towers, and they will be up to 200 metres high with plumes rising high above that. Now Big Ben’s Clock Tower to the top of its golden finial is 96 metres. The cooling towers would be more than twice that height. And of course they would not be pointed at the top but vastly bulky.

Can you imagine what that will do to the views of this splendid estuary from miles away including from both the Cotswold and Wye Valley Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Cooling towers will not only dominate a vast area of estuarial beauty they will stick up above the overlooking hills. They will be seen for thirty miles. EN-1 (para 4.24) worries about the high visibility of development on undeveloped coast and talks of minimising harm to highly valued landscape by landscaping schemes. But this document says the site is “suitable” because the nature and scale of the effects of landscaping are uncertain! [para 5.12.66, page 200]. There is no way 200 metre cooling towers can be mitigated by planting any known trees. The tallest tree in the world – a Redwood in California – reaches to 115m after more than a thousand years!

I realise that some may be thinking this is pure Nimbyism. In my case that charge fails on a technicality - we no longer live there, we live in Bath. In any case it is to misunderstand the specific objections. My objection is not to a new power station at Oldbury, but to the cooling towers which would be a monstrous and unnecessary intrusion. Oldbury is the only site mentioned in this document (EN-6) where it is proposed to have cooling towers. It is primarily the cooling towers which have converted supporters of nuclear power into dedicated opponents.

I will not expand on the other objections – the increased risk of flooding of the surrounding area, the impact on the very special habitats for wild life of the area. These considerations are raised in this document as things to be dealt with. It says “It may be possible to avoid or mitigate impacts” on designated sites of biodiversity [para 5.12.55, page 198].

There is also some discussion about the effect of all this on possible schemes to harness the huge Severn tides which are also being considered. Depending on the outcome they may well destroy the habitat and we won’t have to worry about the birds and fish. It might too make more river water available for cooling – although I doubt it.

I have a wider worry about all this. Draconian power – which is what these new strategic planning arrangements are - must be used with sensitivity if it is to be acceptable in a free democratic society. Unless this disastrous proposal in this document is changed it will bring the whole new planning process into disrepute and democracy with it.

I believe that the Government, in their new found concern about coming energy shortages and in their rush to correct their error of ignoring nuclear power for so long, have cut corners and abandoned logic. I think they said to themselves – Oldbury is a well accepted nuclear station which is closing - we can build a replacement there. When they found they could not use the river water for cooling someone, probably sitting on a sofa, said “well cool it some other way” without thinking it through.

That destroys the case for the site and it destroys popular acceptance of it. My Lords - when you convert friends of nuclear power into enemies on this scale it is time to think again.

*Grand Committee Debates are debates open to all Members of the Lords held in public in the “Moses Room” of the House rather than in the Chamber.

+ Lord (John) Cope was MP for South Gloucestershire – later called Northavon 1974-1997. He was a Minister in both Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s Governments and later Opposition Chief Whip in the Lords. He lives in Bath.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said... A big thanks to Lord Cope for putting the thoughts of many many local people to the House of Lords.... thank goodness someone in the corridors of power has said something publicly about this.... They should clarify the NPS by dictating that 200m high towers are totally unacceptable... but will DECC listen?


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