A welcome contrast with Suffolk brewer Adnams who seem to be supportive of the EDF Sizwell nuclear project with lots of extra beer sales in view, Wentworth Hotel owner Michael Pritt of Aldeburgh has stepped out and announced that "Sizewell will harm Suffolk's tourism".
The Anglian paper carried the strap "Concerns have been raised that the construction of Sizewell C could put off huge numbers of tourists from visiting Suffolk".
The hotel owner is quoted as saying Sizewell (C) could "destroy this part of Suffolk as we know it. The sheer scale of destruction is truly unimaginable", and crucially, for the fence-sitters and the apologists and wait-and-see folk, he added "and by the time you see it happening it will be too late to do anything to save it".
"Jobs connected to tourism far outweigh those provided by Sizewell and many (tourism) jobs will be in jeopardy". On the overall tourism market, he asked why would tourists ever return to Suffolk afterwards?
About time a few other tourism voices spoke out too.
Looking through SAGE files we found a useful reminder of the ramifications of tourism. It concerned the boost the BBC Springwatch programmes gave to Minsmere and Coastal Suffolk's nature assets. "Phenomenal " was the word used to describe the publicity impact from Springwatch.
Visit Suffolk manager Amanda Bond said Springwatch had been "profoundly beneficial". It seems that many more people are now recognising that Sizewell's nature impact will be very damaging for a very, very long time.
Suffolk Preservation Society has set out its Sizewell C stall with a firm balance of costs and advantages and concluded "SPS believes, on the evidence provided by EDF themselves, that this is a seriously flawed project".
Director Fiona Cairns pointed out, in an Anglian feature, that the lack of meaningful environmental data made it especially challenging to critique the proposals. "A company of that size really should do better".
SPS are particularly concerned about the AONB, joining with the AONB itself, Suffolk Coastal Council, Suffolk County, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and the tourism industry. T
he permament new access road across Sizewell Marshes and the tall workers accomodation block would "destroy the tranquillity and remote character of the place". SPS list many heritage buildings which would be impacted and stress there would be an "industrialising effect".
Lots more too, including a real wigging: "If EDF's Stage 2 consultation was an exam script, it would deserve a resounding fail" (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The financial agonies of new nuclear UK continue at Moorside, Sellafield, where it now seems that KEPCO, the Korean nuclear operator is interested in going further than just to finance Nugen, which is 60% Toshiba (Japan) owned and 40% Engie (French energy and gas giant) owned.
Engie has profit and tax problems at home. Toshiba is reputed to be getting out of nuclear completely after a financial disaster building reactors in the USA.
So, the outcome? Well, Korea may wish to build with its own reactors, and not use the Westinghouse US design bought by Japan's Toshiba some years back.
Kepco is building four of them for the United Arab Emirates. Wylfa, on Anglesey, is led by Hitachi, and also short of money.
Meanwhie EDF's problems look so acute that no-one would be surprised to find their China "partners" calling it a day on the French EPR design, something they have already done with the EDF-owned Bradwell, Essex site getting the Chinese reactor design.
A big factor driving the desperate search for foreign money and whatever reactors anyone can find is the problem created by the subsidy agreed by the Government for the EDF EPR reactor at Hinkley C.
Last month the Government indicated that no other operators or sites would get the hefty £92.50 per megawatt-hour guarantee price, with its inflation-proofing for 35 years.
That's almost twice the average current wholesale electricity price, and forecasts now indicate that this wholesale price won't go up much since overall energy supplies globally are unlikely to shift dramatically upwards, a trend reinforced with vast new shale gas reserves opening up in the USA. So cheaper, easier to build reactors look like the name of the game.
The logic of the overall energy market situation is that fierce competitive pressures - or taxpayer subsidies, and maybe both - will characterise nuclear new build.
That's a recipe for industrial troubles, managements under budget pressures, ownership roundabouts - that is, normal market turmoils.
Not exactly a happy and stable picture for such a dangerous technology controlled by national owners from countries with very different notions - if any - of corporate accountability and respect for community interests and high regulatory standards.
A Government inquiry has been launched into the contracts issued by the tax payer funded Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to close down and clean up the UK's original Magnox nuclear power stations, including Sizewell A.
Former National Grid chief Steve Holliday has been appointed to find out what went wrong with the contract given to two American companies for a 14 year deal worth £6.1 bn. This was quickly called in, court cases loomed, and a settlement costing taxpayers over £100m was made to end the contracts and keep the parties out of court.
The public version is that contracting terms and methodology were what went wrong, but it invites questions about what sort of job was done.
Sizewell A was only recently finally decommissioned - with flying colours if the version at the time is to be believed.
We note the inquiry ordered by the Government is, of course, private, but a Parliamentary Committee will get the report.
The two US firms will carry on working for another two years (Guardian 27.3.17) but other media say they - one UK, one USA company - could be re-awarded the contract since no-one else is qualified.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, a notable and worthy body, has recognised the threat to nature and environment protection standards posed by Brexit and called for a new "Department of Land Use" to be set up to create a coherent protective regime for the UK. In effect, it would be a new ministry.
The idea has been backed by green campaigners brought together by the CPRE to deal with infrastructure issues including Heathrow and new (nuclear) power stations.
One of the backers is Suffolk politician Lord Deben. Is he starting to see the Sizewell challenge?
The CPRE say that present planning arrangements are too diverse and fragmented, with four departments of state making policy and policy delivery complex and confused.
DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced last year it was drawing up a 25-year environment "plan" for the UK. A "plan of the plan" was promised for year end, but keeps being delayed. One wonders why?
Maybe 2016 was just too busy with nuclear, energy and nature and infrastructure news, and then Brexit of course, to notice that a very major policy change was set up last year to help developers get round/over/under the EU regulations which have protected the great crested newt.
Described by developers and UK goverment as a "problem", an official consultation was launched at the start of last year by Natural England , the government agency, and DEFRA to change licensing rules for European Protected Species. Results of the consultation were announced December 2016. The Financial Times announced " Developers set for triumph over newts." The aim is to allow developers to build on newt habitats "as long as new habitats can be found". Not much mention of the established mitigation "hierarchy" here. Just a solution to the "ridiculous costs on British businesses", the view of former Chancellor Osborne , the "excessive protection of newts", and generally the "red tape from Europe". A former Tory transport minister was instrumental when he got frustrated at the newts keeping returning to a railway station site in Derbyshire after being "translocated". So far it's just newts in the headlines. But Natural England does all of the licensing of mitigations and removals etc, and the guidelines now talk about "genuine problems to be resolved" and "no satisfactory alternatives" and "meeting the needs" of developers.
So we know where Natural England will likely line up on Sizewell. It is just an arm of government. Supposed to protect England's nature, it's real job looks the exact opposite. All done in the name of "public feedback" from the consultation.....(Natural England Feb 7 2017 Press Release). Looks like it was the "developer" biit of the public...and Government stooges ? Finally, note the assurance : " great crested newt habitat is enhanced...making newt populations more healthy and resilient" (our bold). What shocking rubbish. It looks as though the new licensing rules will allow Natural England to literally "license" similar "improvements" to get round EU law on other protected species too. Did anyone in Parliament ever debate this ? In contrast, when all of the wideranhing and varied European nature protection laws were reviewed by Brussels and the European Parliament recently, they concluded that they worked well. Except for UK developers it seems.
A wind farm planning case in Wales has started to be taken note of because of the amazing turn of legal events involved.
The wind farm project lies a few miles east of Aberystwyth in the Cambrian moutains. It fell under national infrastructure planning law. The wind turbine project suffered because the government does not like land-based wind farms, but doesn't have any direct powers over them, having so far punished them by removing development subsidies available to offshore wind farms and other renewables.
So when this Wales project was actually blocked by planners, the developers took a high court appeal case against the refusal of planning permission which had then to be defended by a Government Minister.
The defence case posed a problem: what reasoned case could there be for the planning refusal ? What case could a Minister put up? Well, they turned to defence of the protected status of red kites who live and breed around and about the proposed site.
Fascinating reading, because the judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, perhaps sensed how important the case was, and set out a definitive summary of and precise references to European Habitat and Species law.
This provided a lovely summary of EU and UK cases, and also 11 principles derived from them. He also explained the role and limits of the vexed IROPI doctrine which has so worried environmental campaigners.
IROPI means Imperative Reasons of Public Interest, a doctrine encouraged into EU law by the UK government to give final overruling powers to ministers on planning and environmental matters. Very interesting reading for nature law watchers.
The judge supported the government case, and the kites got their protection, and the wind farm was defeated. The red kites involved, incidentally, only had to be "nearby" the wind farm site to enjoy the judge's European legal protection. (Case 20126, EWHC 2581(Admin) Cardiff Planning Court. 11th October 2016).
The Minister was the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark MP. One wonders what ministers in the environment departments will be making of it all.
SAGE associates may be out there looking for red kites around Sizewell......
We can't imagine the response in Brexiteer and property developer circles to hearing that a river in New Zealand has been given human rights. It comes as legislation has been passed which recognises that in Maori culture rivers can be ancestors. The river, the Awa Tupua, will have its own legal identity, based on a 140 year recognition, and be granted the same rights as human beings if it is harmed. It is a victory for the Whanagui iwi tribe. Not a such a bad idea for other countries and citizen heritage groups, but a bit of legal creativity may be needed.....
SAGE is starting to monitor the sayings and posturings and good things too - albeit perhaps accidental - which local MPs and Councillors say about the envronment and the dominent Sizewell issue.
Amongst their ranks, Therese Coffey is nothing if not diligent, but not always easy to understand beyond the sound bite stage.
So, what did Anglian readers make of, "I replied to EDF's Stage 2 consultation...The construction of the new nuclear power plant is extremely important for the UK's future energy supply and will benefit the local economy here in Suffolk with the creation of thousands of jobs."
So far, contestable but comprehensible.
Then, "That said, Sizewell C will create significant disruption to local communities and the transport network, especially during the construction phase. It is essential that the impacts are mitigated as much as is possible."
Sounds fine too, but what exactly does it mean ? If you can't mitigate nature, Minsmere, tourism impact, social impact to a "significant" level, and EDF can't afford those traffic mitigations which could work (total A12 uprating, D2 new road, flyover at Yoxford, notwithstanding many, many other considerations), well shouldn't she conclude that it is simply not suitable?
Or is the true position in those final weasel words? They are "As much as possible".
We think that means exactly what it says: Coffey truth is Sizewell at all costs....and she is a government junior minister so this is not just constituency blah. (Anglian Feb.17).
FOE Letter: So what will happen now with the results of the Stage 2 consultation ? Last time, EDF claimed they were confidential, though many organisations published theirs in any case. Even councillors at Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal level were refused access. This time lots of organisations have published their own, and hopefully people have also sent their "evidence" to the national planning inspectors for the EDF Sizewell file at The Planning Inspectorate(PINS) Temple Quay House, Temple Quay, Bristiol BS16PN. Enquiries about how to do it to: email@example.com phone 0303 44 5000.
Suffolk Friends of the Earth have written to EDF calling for a comprehensive report on responses, and it occurs to us that if - as seems to be the case - people are now losing trust in EDF with so much discontinuity between Stage 1 and 2 (that means sort-of-broken promises) the full results could be handed over to an independent agency like the Electoral Reform Society to summarise it all, and especially the individual and local community views.
EDF's monthly newsletter says more than 3,500 people took part in Stage 2, but maybe that includes people looking at exhibitions rather than writing in. So beware any future percentages of views without hard evidence - from what we've heard the exhibitions didn't appear to answer many questions. The response from EDF so far ? EDF Project chief Jim Crawford says they will "fully consider" the results which will "shape" Stage 3. Who said that the same did not seem to happen between Stage 1 and 2 ? But it remains unclear what these consultations are supposed to achieve in any case. Planners are required to take note of community views and EDF are supposed to respect and argue coghently with statutary consultees, and nature laws from Europe etc require meaningful specific consultation, but the results are up to EDF to feed into their final proposals or reject as they see fit, that is, until the planners get their hands on the finalised project.
So thanks to FOE, who meanwhile have been doing good work on the history of coastal erosion. And got an excellent coastal erosion letter in the Anglian (Feb 18).
Suffolk County officials have been quick off the mark to help EDF out with its very unpopular siting for the slightly reduced 2,400 workforce to be housed near Eastbridge in a multi-story container/capsule hotel.
Eight alternative sites are being looked at, apparently.
Campaigners opposed to the Eastbridge site have suggested an urban base would make sense, as at Bridgwater in Somerset for Hinkley C. However, Bridgwater is seven times larger than Leiston, and only Ipswich and Lowestoft rate like that. Three separate locations have been agreed at Bridgwater.
SAGE wonders about the whole approach: in particular, since there is now to be a big workers' caravan park on the edge of Leiston in any case, squeezed between the Aldhurst Farm nature (mitigation) park and another new amphibian nature park across the road.
How does that solve the social problem of the workforce impact on small communities, even if the capsule hotel was broken up and went elsewehere?
And putting workers in Ipswich and Lowerstoft, which has been suggested, would up the already appalling traffic problems.....and EDF costs....
More and more appearing in serious media about UK nuclear and life after Brexit and withdrawal from Euratom. The Financial Times did a superb whole page (March 3). Headline issues are future supplies of nuclear fuel and scientific/technological support.
Nuclear isotopes used in medical treatments and research will also require new UK regulations and maybe supply sources. It's all very complicated and technical, but it seems that there is a basic ownership and control issue in any case because all civil fissile materials in Europe at present are in the ownership hands of the Euratom Supply Agency, mainly for security reasons.
Top nuclear scientist Dame Sue Ion, former New Labour Government adviser and nuclear renaisssance person, reckons things might be ironed out by working in future with China and Korea as partners instead of Europe (see stories above).
But the UK will still have to have its own full regime up and running before that would be possible. Getting it all done by 2019 and Brexit is the "race" factor.
Not yet a headline issue, there is a real Brexit time bomb looming about Europe (the EU) doing its first new style review of all of Europe's existing nuclear power stations.
Required by the revised Nuclear Safety Directive of 2014, which is supposed to have been transposed into UK regulations, it is pathbreaking because for the first time ever it introduces peer group reviews of nuclear safety.
Previously, each country did its own, subject to a common guideline from the International Atomic Energy Authority. Now there will be a review of existing managed stations every six years, checked by experts from other countries.
The first review concentrates on key components in ageing nuclear stations, owned in the UK by EDF. Each country will do a report in 2017, then the "peer" bit starts, aiming to end in 2018.
Brexit and exit from Euratom, as we have already reported, wouldn't mean the UK can escape this process. But after that, with non-European nuclear owners and reactor designs, life might not be the same.
The revised Directive aims to improve public information about nuclear safety too. Will that survive after Brexit ?
It's not just that EDF owns the Bradwell-on-Sea site, which it bought with all of the other nuclear power stations from the failed, privatised British Energy comany some time ago. EDF have had a China connection for some time, with a Sizewell C type EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) being built in China. This was designed by the now collapsed French Areva company which EDF have taken over with French government help, adding to their own ongoing financial crisis.
So how interesting that the Sizewell B Newsletter in January announces with some positivity that their Chinese partner's own design reactor, the HPR1000, has started its approval process for Bradwell in Essex with the UK's Office of Nuclear Regulation.
The application is significantly a joint EDF/China General Nuclear Company effort, through a new joint company GNS (General Nuclear System Ltd).
It's also to be for a "version" of the HPR1000, a process that should take about four years. Do we must await developments?
No, because that doesn't mean to say that a planning consent process can't be started as well in parallel.
Aside from concern with colleagues at Bradwell, does it affect Suffolk? And maybe even Hinkley C if that can't get up and running in time.
What might happen? Maybe the Chimese HPR1000 reactor would get EDF off the Sizewell and Hinkley hooks. The EPR seems to be taking a long, long time to build, and is extremely expensive in any case....and, as we explain above, it also looks as though the Hinkley subsidy is going to prove very, very expensive.
Two interesting bits coming out of the great controversy about expanding Heathrow.
First, it seems the developers are thinking about compensation for people losing homes to the tune of 25% above the pre blight level.
Second, that since part of the noise pollution problem of an expanded airport is extra cars getting to the airport, the idea has come from a Parliamentary report (from the Environment Audit Committee) that a legal limit, a volume ceiling, might be put on new traffic levels. Now there's an idea for Sizewell traffic planning.....
Also, this Committee reveals that air pollution limits (note the current European Court order to the UK Government) due in April won't help the developers either.
Readers should note that in the full Stage 2 Sizewell C consultation report there is an announcement that EDF are considering ways to establish a compensation register.
We recall that compensation was ruled out by the Government for householders at Hinkley. Neverthless, the important point remains about Heathrow that planning "blight" has been recognised. What will the lawyers say?
HS2, the big railway project, was also notable for offering compensation for noise and amenity loss along the way and up to 100 metres from the route/the works. This is just media recycled information, not in any sense legally up to scratch.
Strange times for government, and somehow EDF nuclears crop up.
So a Law Commission created to update the UK's Official Secrets Act is proposing that the secrets are transformed into an Espionage Act which would make whistle-blowers into "traitors". That's the flavour of their proposals.
Aimed at stopping whistle blowers who otherwise are supposed to be protected when acting in the public interest, media reporting has mentioned as traitorous actions leaking on overspends and mispends on public conttracts, reveaing details of pipelines and storage systems, Network Rail's massive overspends, failures in military weapon supply and, well, well, well, details of the government's deal with EDF for Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors.
Oddly enough, two crucial documents were issued by Government on September 29th last year, appearing to tell the public what Mrs May's "revised agreement" with EDF was, and how the decommissioning in years ahead would be financed.
All well and good, but maybe there are other details of the revision which we are not supposed to see, or hear about from leaketrs. What a way to run an energy system, esecially one owned by foreign powers.
Real stealth politics, dramatically changing the legal bills to be faced in judicidial reviews (JR) has been revealed by distinguished environmenta law firm Client Earth., the RSPB and Friends of the Earth. They've started legal proceedings against the Lord Chancellor, the goverment's law chief and the Secretay of State for Justice for deciding to change the legal costs rules faced by organisations challenging government environmental decisions.
The change is subtle and brutal: instead of fixed, capped legal costs, judges will now be allowed to award what they think the costs should be against the party seeeking the JR. In legal industry language, it's called "taxation", which on environmental cases has been governed - have you guessed ? - by a European and international convention called the Aarhus Convention. This says that the public should be able to afford effective legal challenges to government decisions on environmental issues.
Client Earth has complained to the European Ombudsman, and the three organisations are seeking leave to challenge this rule change by the UK. So whoever may have thought Brexit was just a bungled outcome, think again: the UK has never liked European laws which defend environmental values aganst wealthy developers. Good luck to CE, FOE and the RSPB.
As previously reported, the nuclear melt down at the the three wrecked Fukishima nuclear reactors seems to be getting even worse.
The robot designed to enter and inspect the melt down in the bottom of the reactor vessel didn't last very long. (Guardian March 9, 2017). We also note that the serious media now report a "triple melt-down", not just the one with the robot "Scorpion". This machine lasted only two hours, not the planned ten hours. Now the "clean-up" is expected to take 30 to 40 years, and cost about £150 billion.
The robot seemed to have been designed to withstand extreme radiation, and amazing heat. Radiation was estimated to be about 250 sieverts an hour (human safety is measured in milli-siverts....). But it seems this was an underestimate, and radiation of 650 siverts was recorded. "Enough to kill a human being in a minute" was the view.
It has also emerged that Units 1 and 3 are perhaps in an even worse condition than Unit 2, so robot "Scorion" in Unit 2 was a good bet. The problem (!) is removing " hundreds of tons of molten nuclear fuel". Poor robot. What an appalling mess......
Meanwhile, (Guardian 1March 10) residents who fled the Fukushima area are being told to return to their homes. These aren't in the official danger zones, but who wouldn't be worried stiff ?
NOTE: these zones are pretty wide compared to any specified in the UK.