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Nuclear power, Hinkley, safety plans

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Molly Scott Cato, letter, nuclear accident, South West, Chernobyl, cyber attackNuclear incidents are not a thing of the past associated only with decrepit reactors in a by-gone Soviet bloc.

Green MEP Dr Molly Scott Cato has written to 15 local authorities asking what plans they have in place to deal with an emergency nuclear incident at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Her question comes as it emerges that Chernobyl was one of the victims of a massive cyber-attack that affected businesses and organisations across the Ukraine, Russia and parts of Europe earlier this week.

The Independent reported on 27 June that Chernobyl’s radiation monitoring system was hit by the worldwide hack, and that Ukrainian authorities said that monitoring is now being performed manually.

A recent report from the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has concluded that the third proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, ‘Hinkley C’, was ‘risky and expensive’ and news of possible further delays and cost over-runs to the project demonstrate the on-going controversies around giving the new nuclear power station the go-ahead.

Construction of Hinkley Point C, which is being built in Somerset by French power firm EDF and the China General Nuclear Power Group, was controversial before it started, and has now begun amid concerns about whether the type of reactor to be installed will actually work, the Independent reported.

Similar projects in France, Finland and China have been “best by delays and cost overruns”, the NAO report said, and there are “no examples of [the] reactor technology working anywhere in the world”.

But, the Independent reported, the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in a statement: “Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear plant in a generation. This was an important strategic decision to ensure that nuclear is part of a diverse energy mix.

“Consumers won’t pay a penny until Hinkley is built; it will provide clean, reliable electricity powering six million homes and creating more than 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships in the process.”

However, a Hinkley Nuclear Emergency Plan dated 2012, has been drawn up by Somerset County Council, identifying which public authorities will be informed should there be a nuclear safety breach at Hinkley Point.

This list includes 15 local authorities within a 40km radius of Hinkley Point, stretching from South Wales to mid-Devon.

It includes Bristol’s neighbouring local authorities of North Somerset District Council and Bath and North East Somerset District Council, but excludes Bristol city itself – with over 449,000 residents the largest population centre in the South West.

Scott Cato has written to the 15 local authorities, and Bristol City Council, asking them to reveal their own plans for action in the event of a nuclear incident.

“Yesterday I spoke at a conference drawing attention to the ongoing financial and human costs of the Chernobyl disaster,” Scott Cato said.

“Sadly, we cannot assume that nuclear incidents are a thing of the past associated only with decrepit reactors in a by-gone Soviet bloc.

“The tragedy of Fukushima just five years ago shows we must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“And now we learn that nuclear power plant operating and monitoring systems are not immune from cyberattack.

“I want the public to feel reassured that their local authorities have emergency plans in place in the event of a nuclear incident at Hinkley.”

“Of course the greatest security that could be offered to the people of the South West would be to scrap Hinkley altogether and end the folly of nuclear power,” she continued.

“As well as the health and safety risks, nuclear no longer has any economic legitimacy.

“Indeed, Hinkley has always been economically illiterate.

“Well before Hinkley delivers a single watt of electricity, we could, given the political will, have developed our abundant renewable energy resources to deliver more power, more cheaply than Hinkley ever will.

“And in the process create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”

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