29 years on from the disaster at Chernobyl, millions of pounds are still being spent in an attempt to contain the radiation.

An area originally extending 30 kilometres (19 mi) in all directions from the plant is officially called the "zone of alienation". It is largely uninhabited, except for about 300 residents who have refused to leave. Even today, radiation levels are so high that the workers responsible for rebuilding the sarcophagus are only allowed to work five hours a day for one month before taking 15 days of rest. Ukrainian officials estimate the area will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.

On the 28th april 2015, firefighters were struggling to control forest fires within the surrounding area. If a similar disaster happened at Sizewell, This is what we could be facing for decades to come.

Article from the Guardian, 24th April 2015

World must plug funding gap for massive 100-metre steel arch being built to contain remaining radioactive waste at the site

old and new construction called sarcophagus covering the nuclear reactor no. 4 in Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine

A massive engineering project to make the Chernobyl nuclear power plant safe is facing a €265m (£190m) funding shortfall.

Next week a conference held by Germany in London will call on countries to make up the gap, but the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has said it may have to ask its shareholders to make up the shortfall if donations dry up.

This Sunday marks the 29th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, when a power surge blew the roof off a reactor, spewing radioactive clouds across Russia, and eastern Europe.

The project to build a new radiation container had been due for completion this year but the deadline slipped to November 2017, as costs mushroomed from an initial estimate of €800m (£572m) to more than €2.15bn today.

Over 40 governments and the European commission have committed to help a Chernobyl Shelter Fund tasked with sealing off the 100 tonnes of uranium and one tonne of plutonium that remain within the site.

“If countries recognise the nature of the problem in Chernobyl and its importance for human security in Ukraine and ecological security in Europe, there is a hope that the gap could be closed at the donor conference on April 29,” Anton Usov, an EBRD spokesman told the Guardian. “Verbally the donors are committed to contribute more funds.”

The bank believes there is a broad understanding among nations of the threat that radioactive dust on the site still poses to Kiev, around 70km away.

But “if there is a shortfall, then we will speak to the bank’s management and shareholders and it may be funded by EBRD reserves,” Usov added. “Theoretically, that is something we could do.”

The 31,000 tonne protective steel arch is an engineering project of staggering dimensions – 100m high, 165m long, with a span of 260m. When finished, it will be slid across teflon pads to entomb the burned out reactor, and is intended to remain effective for a century.

“The are no parallels in the history of world engineering,” Usov said. “No-one has even undertaken a project like this before.”

Construction of the stainless steel arch has been hampered by factors ranging from optimistic early architectural designs to heavy snows in the winter of 2013/14, which caved in part of a roof near the stricken Unit 4 reactor shelter. Workers were evacuated from nearby sites, as radiation levels surged.

The reactor itself is still too contaminated for workers to approach. Removal of radioactive materials there will only begin once the new confinement structure has been finished.

 

From the guardian april 5th

Legislation rushed through in the final hours of parliament allows local planning laws to be bypassed, seriously alarming anti-nuclear campaigners

Radioactivity symbol

Objectors worry that ministers are desperate to find a solution to the current radioactive waste problem to win public support to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. Photograph: David Woodfall

Under the latest rules, the long search for a place to store Britain’s stockpile of 50 years’ worth of the most radioactive waste from power stations, weapons and medical use can be ended by bypassing local planning.

Since last week, the sites are now officially considered “nationally significant infrastructure projects” and so will be chosen by the secretary of state for energy. He or she would get advice from the planning inspectorate, but would not be bound by the recommendation. Local councils and communities can object to details of the development but cannot stop it altogether.

The move went barely noticed as it was passed late on the day before parliament was prorogued for the general election, but has alarmed local objectors and anti-nuclear campaigners.

Friends of the Earth’s planning advisor, Naomi Luhde-Thompson, said: “Communities will be rightly concerned about any attempts to foist a radioactive waste dump on them. We urgently need a long-term management plan for the radioactive waste we’ve already created, but decisions mustn’t be taken away from local people who have to live with the impacts.”

Objectors worry that ministers are desperate to find a solution to the current radioactive waste problem to win public support to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Zac Goldsmith, one of the few government MPs who broke ranks to vote against the move, criticised the lack of public debate about such a “big” change. “Effectively it strips local authorities of the ability to stop waste being dumped in their communities,” he said.

“If there had been a debate, there could have been a different outcome: most of the MPs who voted probably didn’t know what they were voting for.”

Labour abstained in the vote, indicating that a future government will not want to reverse the change of rules. However, the shadow energy minister, Julie Elliott, has warned that the project is expected to take 27 years to build even after a preferred site was identified and would cost £4bn-5.6bn a year to build, plus the cost of running it for 40 years.

Since the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution found in 1976 that it was “morally wrong” to keep generating nuclear waste without a demonstrably safe way of storing the waste, there have been at least four attempts to find the right site, all of them shelved after strong protest.

There are now 4.5m cubic metres of accumulated radioactive waste kept in secure containers at sites across Britain, though only 1,100m3 of this is the most controversial high-level waste, and 290,000m3 is intermediate-level waste. It costs £3bn a year to manage the nuclear waste mountain, of which £2bn comes from taxpayers.

The most recent proposal for a more permanent solution was to ask local authorities to volunteer to examine whether they could host the development. Initially, a coalition of Cumbria county council and Copeland and Allerdale borough councils put their names forward, but the policy stalled in 2013 when the county council pulled out.

Last year, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published a white paper which said ministers would prefer to work with public support, but reserved the right to take more aggressive action on planning if “at some point in the future such an approach does not look likely to work”.

The day before parliament rose, MPs voted in an unusual paper ballot to implement a two-page statutory instrument which adds nuclear waste storage to the list of nationally significant infrastructure projects in England, via the 2008 Planning Act.

Officials have said approval depends on a “test of public support” and any site would undergo extensive geological safety tests.

Copeland borough council, one of the two areas most affected by any such development at Sellafield, said it was pleased with the government’s change to planning rules.

Radiation-Free Lakeland – set up to block the Sellafield proposal because they claim there is no evidence deep storage is safe or that the geology of Cumbria is suitable – claimed, however, “the test of public support is a fig leaf: the government hast’t said what the public support will be”.

The only existing high-level radioactive underground waste storage, in New Mexico, USA, has been closed since last year following two accidents.

Germany has put similar plans for burying high-level waste on hold and four other countries, including France and Japan, are examining the idea.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/05/law-changed-so-nuclear-waste-dumps-can-be-forced-on-local-communities

 

From the Financial Times.
 

Four hundred construction jobs are to be cut at the site of Britain’s Hinkley Point nuclear power plant after France’s EDF called a halt to work for the first in a new generation of reactors. The cuts follow news in February of a delay to an investment decision on the £24.5bn project, now likely to be months away as negotiations with potential investors continue. EDF Energy, the group’s UK unit, has said it is “working hard” to finalise a deal on Hinkley Point C and “making progress” in discussions with possible partners, including with the Chinese companies involved. There were signs that negotiations with the partners — China General Nuclear Power Corp, China National Nuclear Corp, France’s Areva, Saudi Electric and several pension funds — had stalled over Chinese demands. The Chinese energy companies, which are rivals, have been at odds over their precise share of the project. Both have been pushing for a substantial share of the supply chain contracts — a demand that has held up negotiations, although it is now understood to have been met.
They are also interested in buying into proposed reactor projects at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the second of which they want to use to pioneer their own reactor design. This has been a stumbling block. Potential investors are also understood to want to see government agreement on the contract for difference, or price at which the power will be sold, before making a final commitment.

FT 2nd April 2015

Suffolk communities unite to make demands from Sizewell C

(Article from East Angia daily Times)

20 March 2015

Communities are uniting in the demands they are to make as part of the development of a nuclear power plant in east Suffolk.

Representatives from 50 town and parish councils met the Joint Local Authority Group (JLAG) to agree a range of measures they will call on EDF Energy to deliver in phase two of its Sizewell C consultation.

The meeting agreed the need for the whole community – Suffolk County Council (SCC), Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) and parish councils – “to work rapidly together” to press EDF to agree its terms.

Long-held aspirations for a four villages A12 bypass are included in the demands along with assurances for Yoxford, Middleton and Theberton to be protected from the “predicted substantial increase in traffic on the B1122”.

JLAG, which is formed from SCC and SCDC members, also agreed to push EDF to present an “early timetable” for its future plans.

More than two years has passed since phase one of the Sizewell consultation went out and the date for phase two has been repeatedly delayed. When it arrives, JLAG is also urging for there to be at least 12 weeks’ community consultation – rather than the eight proposed – so that people have sufficient time to consider what is an “extremely complex” project.

JLAG chairman Andy Smith said the “resounding view” of the meeting was that EDF needed to provide more detailed information for the consultation, which he urged “as many people as possible” to take part in. “I would urge all local communities to ready themselves,” he added. “We don’t yet know when it will begin but it is currently not scheduled to run for long, so readiness to respond will be essential.”

Debbi Tayler, spokesman for the Four Villages Bypass group, said she welcomed the outcome, which was “what we have been pushing for all along”.

She said the need for a bypass around Stratford St Andrew, Farnham, Marlesford and Little Glemham was more apparent than ever, highlighting the “astonishing” traffic that built up during recent road works, which she says will only worsen during Sizewell’s construction.

Tony Middleditch, a Yoxford councillor, who has been campaigning for EDF to abandon its plans for construction traffic to use the B1122 in favour of a new road built further south known as the “D2” route, also welcomed the progress made.

“I think they’ve realised there’s a problem that the D2 route would solve and at least now they are putting pressure on EDF,” he said.

Leonora van Gils, a Darsham resident who has highlighted the problems faced by homeowners while EDF’s plans are dragged out, also called for more clarity.

“Why are they taking so long?” she asked. “Do they think it is fair to have people not knowing for all this time?”

EDF Energy said it was “committed to a full and robust consultation” and would be providing more information about the project in the next stage, the timing of which was linked to the final decision at Hinkley Point, its other nuclear power project in Somerset.

In the meantime, people were invited to raise questions at the Sizewell C information office in Leiston High Street.

A conservation group has accused council chiefs of “cutting corners” in the assessment of a proposed new 165-acre wildlife site to replace internationally-important habitat that will be lost if Sizewell C is built.

Suffolk Coastal council says the scheme for land at Aldhurst Farm at Leiston will be treated separately from any plans for a new nuclear power station and not as compensation as the habitat will be created whether the £14billion twin reactor plant goes ahead or not.

But Suffolk Coastal Friends of the Earth (FoE) says this decision means a less than adequate investigation of the impact of the new site and loss of part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) will take place – with no need for a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The group says EDF Energy has openly admitted the connection between the proposed wildlife site off Lovers Lane and Sizewell C as it will “help compensate for potential land-take from Sizewell Marshes SSSI”.

FoE said: “It is notable on the planning portal that the Suffolk Wildlife Trust questions whether the correct appraisals have been done with regard to the vulnerable nature reserve areas. In fact, the necessary assessments are seriously incomplete.

“This leaves our protected habitats and species in and around Sizewell at severe risk.

“Since the reason for this new habitat is to compensate for damage caused by Sizewell C construction works, then that damage must first be formally assessed, in line with the European Habitats Directive.

“This demands that all impacts be included, not just environmental changes caused by the new project itself, but the larger development as a whole, in combination with any other local proposals.

 

“This has not been achieved and as a result the screening and consideration of likely effects are inevitably misconstrued.”

Rachel Fulcher, the group’s coordinator, added: “These are serious oversights, with a bearing on a massive project that will ravage the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and our Heritage Coast.

“Wildlife will be lost and our tranquil, protected countryside will be ruined, along with our tourist trade which depends on it.

“Even if the proper appraisals take one or two more years to complete, then they should be done. Corner cutting like this undermines public confidence.”

In a letter, Philip Ridley, head of planning at Suffolk Coastal, said: “That the proposed habitat creation project is a stand-alone scheme, intended to be implemented and retained regardless of what does or does not happen with the Sizewell C project in due course, has been made clear in the application documents, and in particular in the Planning Statement.”

UK courts had decided that schemes which can go ahead on their own rather than as an integral part of a larger development should be treated as stand-alone and therefore the proposal would not need an EIA.

The scheme will include 14 acres of wetland habitat and a “heathland mosaic” including grassland, heathland, scrub and scattered trees.

(article copied from the ipswich star)