Doing Down Leiston.

Analysis by Barrie Skelcher

In the days of the CEGB, (Central Electricity Generating Board), that organisation continually reviewed the predicted economic and population growth of England and Wales. They then developed a strategy to ensure there was sufficient electricity generating capacity to meet the anticipated needs. As it takes a number of years to acquire a site, design, construct and commission a power station this planning had to look tens of years ahead. The policy was to have power stations in proximity to the areas of demand, and not to become dependant upon one source of fuel.  By the 1950’s, with the successful design, construction and operation of the Calder Hall nuclear power stations by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, (UKAEA), the CEGB turned to the nuclear option.

The Calder Hall stations had been built for the prime purpose of producing weapons grade plutonium which entailed the relatively frequent change of fuel (uranium). These reactors had been conceived, designed, constructed and commissioned, in four years. They would continue to operate from 1956 until 2003 when they were closed down for economic, rather than engineering, reasons.

When the CEGB decided to have some nuclear generation in their mix it would have made sense for them to have commissioned the UKAEA to design and oversee the construction of the new nuclear power stations. This would have kept UKAEA the team, with its expertise, together. However politicians interfered and the CEGB was required to go out to private industry. As a result the first six of the CEGB nuclear power stations were of different design. The consortiums which were formed to exploit this development had little or no nuclear experience so they had to entice away some of the nuclear engineers and physicists from the UKAEA.  The result was six different designs, consequently these stations took different times to construct and commission and they suffered their own teething troubles.

By the late 1950’s the CEGB was looking for a site in the East Anglia area to build another nuclear station, this time to be based upon the design of the original Magnox reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The CEGB considered several sites but eventually preferred Sizewell and this was generally accepted by the local community. The idea was that while the nuclear element would restrict further development of Sizewell and Leiston, the Leiston Urban District Council would benefit from the business rates the station would pay once it started to generate.  These would be substantial and enable the Town to develop high quality infrastructure and facilities. Great prospects!

A few months after the power station started to operate the Government changed the rules. Business rates were to go to Central Government, not local councils. Leiston managed to build its Community Centre before the change took place, but that was all.  In 1974 Leiston took another hit, the Leiston Urban District Council, (LUDC), was abolished with the changes in local government and Leiston cum Sizewell became part of the Suffolk Coastal District Council and so lost control and influence of further development.

In the 1980’s the CEGB got consent to build Sizewell B. As a “thank you” to the Town and by way of compensation for the upset that the construction would cause, they offered to pay for a swimming pool to be added to the Leiston Leisure Centre and added a substantial sum to offset the initial running costs. At first SCDC declined and asked for the money to spend in Felixstowe. The CEGB refused, it was for Leiston or not at all. Only when a group of Leiston people became active did the Council give way and eventually Leiston did get its swimming pool. 

In 1982 the SCDC told the Sizewell B Inquiry about the policy of restricting Leiston’s residential expansion and that only another 157 units were planned to meet local needs. However after consent for the new power station was given, SCDC, without any public announcement, consultation or justification, abandoned this policy and have now doubled the size of the Town. They have not matched this expansion with additional facilities and improved infrastructure. The pictures below show the contrast in pre and post SCDC developments. Lhs side is Seaward Ave. “affordable housing” as per LUDC. The rhs shows a SCDC approved development in Central Rd. A new property so squashed in that the garage is too small for the cars and there are virtually no gardens. This clearly demonstrates how SCDC is intent on downgrading Leiston. The Strategy Plan they have produced confirms this, but protects Aldeburgh and Woodbridge from development of this type.

While all this development was going on virtually no consideration was given to its effect upon the Sizewell Emergency plans. They were not even revised when Sizewell B started operating and remained as for Sizewell A even though the reactors are totally different and the new one is about six times more powerful. The population and domestic residencies doubled in size but the boundary remained much the same so now the population density is about 6,800/sq km, far greater than other towns in the area like Aldeburgh, Woodbridge and Ipswich.  Had there been a nuclear emergency this increase in population density could have rendered protection measures for the population ineffective.

Conveniently, with respect to nuclear site emergency planning, the Government moved the goal posts. Originally such schemes had to cater for the maximum credible accident now they only have to cater for the reasonably foreseeable accident.  This is not just a matter of semantics; there is considerable difference between the two. If an accident situation can be “reasonably foreseen” it should be designed out. Emergency plans should cater for events that have not been foreseen, like what happened at Fukushma. It is the Titanic Syndrome.  When the ship was designed and built the “reasonably foreseen accident” would probably have been damage to the hull through collision or grounding, consequently it was built with watertight compartments to make it unsinkable. The “maximum credible accident” would have been the sinking of the ship in mid ocean. We all know what happened and what the consequences were!  This means that Leiston is not now protected against the consequences of the maximum credible accident.

Despite this increased population the Councils have done little, if nothing, to improve the Town’s facilities and infrastructure. There are only one set of public toilets and these are very basic. (Well there is also a public toilet at the back of the old council offices but these are maintained by the Leiston Town Council because the District Council wanted to close them down!). The Town’s Community Centre is small for an expanding town of nearly 7,000 residents. It was built in the 1960’s when Leiston was half that size. It compares poorly with the quality of some local village halls. The children’s boating pool has been filled in and as for beach huts, there is a waiting time of about 20 years, nothing has been done to build more for the local people. The town library is squashed into part of the old post office not at all like the specially constructed library in Aldeburgh. All this degrading of the Town has an effect on property prices which are amongst the lowest in the County.  

The matter does not end there. When EDF, at Sizewell B, realised that they would not be able to move their spent fuel to Sellafield for reprocessing, they sought permission to build a spent fuel dry store on the site. As part of the planning approval they were required to compensate the local people for the inconvenience the work would cause. So an “Amelioration Fund” was established. The terms were worded so that the money would benefit places as far away as the River Deben but not the residents of Leiston. Albeit these folk would have to live with this radio active disaster potential close by. Yet another illustration of how SCDC has no respect for the Leiston Town’s folk.

Now the Government is encouraging the building of another two nuclear power stations at Sizewell. They are only calling the development “Sizewell C” to try and avoid highlighting the fact that it will be twice the size of Sizewell B and have two reactors. SCDC and Suffolk County Council (SCC) seem delighted. Their reasonable reaction should have been to meet with the residents of Leiston and nearby places and say “You are the people who will bear the brunt of the upset, what additional facilities and town improvements do you want?” Not a bit of it, these councils just see it as a means for getting improvements elsewhere, like building a bypass round some villages, miles away, on the A12. As for Leiston, they don’t seem care. They will not even listen to the worries and objections of the Town’s residents and take issue with the Government on behalf of the population. Instead they just put out propaganda about the supposed great benefits that seem to apply everywhere except Leiston.

 The result of all this is that Leiston is being downgraded. The compacting of housing without development of recreational and social facilities will lead to social problems. Not protecting the Town against the Maximum Credible Nuclear Accident. Denying the Town benefit from the Amelioration Fund. The value of domestic property will decline with respect to property in other areas. Already Leiston property prices are much lower than those in neighbouring towns and villages.

If Scotland can have a referendum on whether they should remain part of the United Kingdom, Leiston should be offered one on whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom!

 

 

The Fukushima nuclear disaster showed us once again that nuclear reactors are fundamentally dangerous. Not only do they cause significant damage to the environment, the health of populations and to national economies, the heavy financial cost of a meltdown is inevitably borne by the public, not by the companies that designed, built, and operated the plants. None of the world’s 436 nuclear reactors are immune to human errors, natural disasters, or any of the many other serious incidents that could cause a disaster. Millions of people who live near nuclear reactors are at risk.

The lives of hundreds of thousands of people continue to be affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, especially the 160,000 who fled their homes because of radioactive contamination, and continue to live in limbo without fair, just, and timely compensation. Below are links to two studies which outline the ongoing problems which are a result of the accident.

The Real Lessons of Fukushima

Lessons From Fukushima

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