FIE: UK ignores nuclear contamination risk to Ireland

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From a Friends of the Irish Environment press release, 15 March 2013

The Environmental Impact Assessment for the new UK nuclear plant Hinkley Point C in Somerset did not analysis the impacts of severe accidents that could affect neighboring countries, including Ireland.

Friends of the Irish Environment have raised the issue with the Minister for the Environment, citing a report from the Austrian Federal Environmental Agency “Umweltbundesamt” They are seeking to have trans boundary impacts analyzed before permission is given, currently scheduled for 19 March.

The Austrian Agency’s Technical Report says that severe accidents with high releases cannot be excluded. ‘A conservative worst case release scenario should have been included in the EIA. A source term, for example for an early containment failure or containment bypass scenario, should have been analysed as part of the EIA – in particular because of its relevance for impacts at greater distances.’

Concerns about the costs associated with new safety features have led to increase the output of the plant by an unprecedented higher temperature burn-up of fuels and for the use of MOX, increasing the potential of danger in comparison with the latest Generation II plants.

‘If a contamination of ground (and air) beyond certain thresholds can be expected, a set of agricultural intervention measures is triggered’, the Technical Report states. ‘These measures include earlier harvesting, closing of greenhouses and covering of plants, putting livestock in stables etc. These agricultural measures are quite complex and take some time. Reactions are especially difficult if there is only very little time between the onset of an accident and the arrival of the first radioactive clouds.’

The British authorities have accepted the statements in the EIA that claim

· ‘the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary. [Appendix 7E (“Assessment of Transboundary impacts”).

FIE letter to the Minister asks him to exercise his right under the UN Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context [ESPOO], to require a public consultation period open to all countries that may be affected by trans-boundary impacts.

A spokesman for the organisation said that ‘It cannot be proven beyond doubt that a large release cannot occur. We would be foolish not to examine what the impacts could be and what preparations should be considered in the event of a nuclear disaster on our doorstep.’


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