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Nuke on my watch

EDF-owned nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, Suffolk, targeted (again).

So Osborne's upcoming disaster of an energy bill may have been hitting the headlines all week, but blockades of nuke facilities – Hinkey Point, near Bridgewater, and at Sizewell in Suffolk – have been a little overlooked. Here's the lowdown on the current state of play in terms of UK nuclear expansion and how some ne'er-do-wells have been acting out against evil energy behemoths, EDF.

The action kicked off on Friday 23rd at Hinkley B power station with four activists using concrete tubes to arm-lock a road block. Nifty timing, aimed at employees shift changeover, meant workers were prevented from entering or leaving causing a mammoth tailback. And there they remained for over four hours. Eventually a protester removal team arrived from Bristol and put the protesters on trolleys and roll them tubes and all to the side of the road. The concrete held out for another 40 minutes before the cops were able to disengage the blockaders and inevitably nick 'em. They will all be in Taunton Magistrates Court on 19 December if you feel like supporting.

Renewed anger at the Hinkley plant has sprung up like a uranium leak due to new evidence that the reactors are faulty. Over the last few months Hinkley B power station has been shut down for checks and repairs. It is believed that they have found cracks to the core. The subsequent shut down was costly for EDF: a large number of contractors and nuclear experts were sent home on full pay.

As with previous anti-Hinkley actions, the demonstrators acted to show their resistance to the proposed new nuclear power station and to highlight the fact that EDF have stated they would like to extend the lifetime of Hinkley B, which is due to be shut down permanently in 2016. This would mean the power station carrying on manufacturing nuclear waste well past its sell-by date: profit over safety, and likely to be regretted.

On Monday 26th November an almost identical action took place in Suffolk at the proposed new site for Sizewell C. Again four activists blocked the road and had to be cut out by the specialist police team. This time three of the activists were released under caution and one has been charged on suspicion (huh?) of obstructing the highways. EDF announced on the 20th November that they proposed to build a Sizewell C at Leiston, the same site as reactor B.

A public consultation will take place over the coming months although this is probably just a formality: EDF have already disclosed financial sweeteners for the local communities to justify and compensate for their plans. The bribes include future road building and P.F.I. for the education and training of the local youth. This is identical to those offered to West Somerset Council, who greedily accepted them viewing the new build as National policy and therefore inevitable. They rushed forward permission to allow preparatory work on the Hinkley Point site, thus allowing the devastation of the land. Ancient Oak woodland has been destroyed and miles of hedgerows ripped up, decimating the habitats of birds, insects and small mammals.

This is just the beginning of the destruction, as the big players in the construction industry scramble to get a slice of this highly toxic pie. Already Balfour Beatty has secured a £30 million subsidy to build three new jetties at Combewich on the River Parot, so that heavy machinery can be transported there - displacing the local residents who moor their boats there. Kier Construction has landed the contract to carry out the major earth works.

To give you an idea of the scale of this project, which will take 10 years to complete, it will involve enough steel reinforcements to build up to 9 HMS aircraft carriers and five London Eyes. Each nuclear island will be as big as St Paul's Cathederal and enough concrete will be used that it could fill Twickenham Rugby Stadium to the brim. To move all of this EDF have gained permission for up to 750 H.G.V movements every 18 hours, although this will likely average out at around 500 truck movements a day, delivering a total of 5 million tonnes of aggregate to the site. Somerset locals are horrified at the prospect of this level of heavy traffic rumbling through their villages.

As local papers inform the residents of Chilkwell Street in Glastonbury that all these vehicles are heading their way, the council has been quick to respond. They say that all the aggregate will arrive via Junction 23 and 24 on the M5. EDF will then build a new bypass around Cannington, a village near Hinkley. Not that this is a good thing: they have Compulsory Purchase rights and have already bought up half of the land and properties in the area to house their workforce. Other ways to reduce the impact on the transport network is the construction of two 'park and ride' facilities. At these services as there will be an expected 508 bus journeys a day bringing the rest of the workforce in and out of Hinkley.

In an attempt to quell any local opposition EDF negotiators have promised to compensate Somerset by contributing to future infrastructure projects, promising a 60 million package covering not just transport, but 'community impact issues', skills and training, housing, leisure, and community safety (...the police). No wonder the skint council's sucking up big time.

There were many opportunities for the planning department of Somerset Council to stop this insane project ever getting started; the first being the no-brainer of the planning application and the impact on the community of noise and other factors, and their so-called 'enjoyment of the land'. Critics say comparing the handling of this issue with the use of these excuses to evict Dale Farm travellers last year just shows the extent to which environmental policies are malleable to politicians' political whims (and outright prejudices).

With a life expectancy of just fifty years, the project also scores a big fat 'F' in terms of sustainability – with the only sustainable aspect being that stubborn nuke waste.

One anti-Hinkley activist told SchNEWS: “It is surprising that the government does not seem concerned about where the waste will be disposed of or how. At present the Government policy is that waste will be temporarily stored at the site only for 160 years by which point the Office for Nuclear Regulation hope to have located a national geological disposal site, to transfer it to... Try opening a cafe in any small town without a viable plan as to where your waste is going and find yourself shut down, big business once again shows that it doesn't have to bother with factors that effect us mere mortals, even when it comes down to something as important as toxic as radioactive waste... But I guess when one is manufacturing the material necessary to make weapons of mass destruction and the by product happens to be electricity, anything goes.

See http://stophinkley.org/

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Twitter: @SchNEWS