Consultation on the draft National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure

This document can be downloaded here.

SHUT DOWN SIZEWELL CAMPAIGN

Tudor House, St James Street, Dunwich, Suffolk, IP17 3DU

01728 648300

www.shutdown-sizewell.or.uk

email: info@shutdown-sizewell.org.uk

This submission is from the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, a properly constituted organisation founded in 1984 to combat the pernicious threat of nuclear power stations on the beautiful and eroding coast of Suffolk. In particular it was founded to campaign against the then proposed new power station, Sizewell B. The Campaign has hundreds of members and supporters, both within Great Britain and abroad, but mostly within East Anglia. This submission was produced for, and approved by, the Core Group of the Campaign.

Consultation on the draft National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure

Summary

  1. There is a conflict of interest by having the Government Department that is responsible for promoting the civil nuclear programme — BEIS — also trying to take responsibility for dealing with the disposal of nuclear waste. The Flowers Report highlighted this and stated clearly that responsibility for the latter should lie with the Department responsible for the environment — now DEFRA. Public confidence in this process requires this separation of roles. So this NPS has been prepared, and this consultation organised, by the wrong Department.

  2. We also wish to point out that the Planning Act 2008, under which the NPS is required, and which provides the context for its application, is a most unsatisfactory and undemocratic piece of legislation. It is clear from the way that it has been structured that it was always intended to remove the proper right of the public to comment effectively on major national infrastructure proposals. The public inquiries that used to be required under earlier legislation did give that right, and the process took time. The Government did not like the delays, nor the costs, of these inquiries, and the 2008 Act is designed just to push these proposals through. This is not useful and effective consultation, and it needs to be repealed, if you really value public confidence.

  3. The Flowers Report in 1976 also identified the urgent need for the long-term management of highly radioactive waste to be taken seriously by the nuclear industry, and for research to be undertaken to this end. To date, that recommendation has not been followed, so the essential background research needed to inform any intelligent decision on the best and most appropriate process is missing.

  4. Further, the Flowers Report identified the need for detailed geological information about Great Britain to be obtained so that the areas appropriate for geological disposal, if that were to be shown to be the best option, could be readily identified. It is clear that that research has not been done either. We have been informed by BEIS that it has insufficient geological information to know in advance which areas of the country would, or would not, be suitable for a GDF.

  5. In 2006 the independent CoWRM recommended that, for legacy waste only — waste that already existed, was in inappropriate and potentially dangerous short-term storage facilities, and for which an urgent solution was needed — the least bad solution, based on the then-current level of knowledge, was safe and secure temporary storage, followed by disposal in a GDF. But it recommended that an ongoing programme of research should continue to look for a better solution. Obviously it was not completely satisfied with its recommendation.

  6. CoRWM did not recommend that a GDF was appropriate for any as-yet uncreated waste, meaning waste from proposed new reactors. It is clear from the detail in this Consultation that high-level nuclear waste is both highly toxic and highly radioactive, and that any process that produces such waste cannot be termed sustainable and so should be outlawed. Therefore no nuclear reactors should be built until a real solution is found to neutralising and making safe this dangerous waste. Public confidence in Governmental oversight and control of dangerous industrial chemicals has been badly dented by, amongst other cases, the more than fifty year delay, following discovery that it was seriously bad for human health, before asbestos was banned. There can be no public confidence in the use of a GDF as a justification for new nuclear plants.

  7. The timescales for legacy waste and waste from new nuclear power plants are completely different. Legacy waste needs immediate disposal. Waste from proposed new nuclear plants does not yet exist, and should never be created.

  8. In pursuit of the openness and transparency that you claim to embrace, we consider that the present designation of what is euphemistically called “spent fuel” is both deliberately misleading and factually incorrect. This is high-level nuclear waste, which is the waste product of the nuclear cycle and which cannot be used, in that form, for anything else. It is waste. Referring in particular to this waste from the PWR at Sizewell B, the pretence that it might be recycled is unrealistic. Facilities to do this do not exist in this country, and the economics of sending it abroad don’t add up. Any inquiry as to what its future will be inevitably produces the answer that it will be disposed of in a GDF. It has no useful future, and it should be designated as waste, licensed as waste and treated as waste now.

  9. There are a number of references in these documents to the costs of waste management needing to be reasonable. The Flowers Report sensibly took a different view. It made no apology for adding to the costs of the nuclear industry where that ensured proper safety. It commented: “we cannot believe that sound waste management practices should be handicapped by the costs involved, whether these be for execution or for underlying research and development.”. You should be taking the same approach.

  10. In trying to establish the need for a GDF, you erroneously claim that nuclear power is low carbon. Whilst the nuclear industry would like you to believe that, independent research proves it to be wrong. The real figures are somewhere around the 120 gCO2 equivalent/kwh and rising, which is well above the Climate Change Commission’s (CCC) limit for new generation capacity of 50 gCO2 equivalent/kwh. So there is no need for new nuclear, it does not meet the CCC target, and it should not be being built.

  11. There is an enormous amount that modern Western empirical science does not understand about the workings of the universe. Modern physics has recently promulgated the Unified Field Theory, which would unify all the known laws of nature. The scientists are still trying to get their heads around its implications, but these are vast. Once command from this fundamental level could be established, we might be able to tap into advanced technologies that were able to undo the enormous damage to Earth systems that we have done through using nuclear weapons, creating nuclear accidents and producing nuclear waste. So it should never be put beyond retrieval.

  12. The technology to create a GDF does not exist anywhere on earth, and nothing on this timescale has ever been achieved by mankind. The 170 year working span of the facility is approximately the time in the UK since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The then unforeseeable changes that have taken place since, technologically, socially, environmentally and financially, have been staggering. The changes that are underway now, and that will manifest within the next twenty to thirty years, will be no less staggering. So to pretend that you can plan and implement a project initially over 170 years, but really over hundreds of thousands of years, is pure fantasy. This is Alice in Governmentland, complete with Mad Hatters and White Rabbits!

  13. That this technology does not exist anywhere in the world is another cause for concern. The nuclear industry, initially through the two bombs dumped on Japan, then through cavalier programmes of weapons testing in the atmosphere, and more recently through man-made disasters at nuclear power plants, particularly Chernobyl and Fukushima, has successfully polluted the whole biosphere. Potentially-damaging radionuclides have been embedded in living organisms across the sea, the air and on the land surface. Now you want to try to pollute the geology of this country. No doubt you will use the same uninformed blandishments as on the previous occasions, because you can’t, and you don’t, know what impact an accident would have within a GDF. But you want to assure us that it is all safe and secure, even though that is not how any of the early uses of the other nuclear technologies worked out.

  14. It is encouraging to see that the Scottish Government has not succumbed to your obsession with sweeping this high-level radioactive waste under the carpet and pretending that it is gone. Its proposal is for near-surface storage, which would make retrieval at the appropriate time much easier. Whilst we agree with the need to avoid burdening future generations with dangerous waste from which they have derived no benefit, that is exactly what you are going to do through your proposed GDF. Who in a hundred years’ time, while this facility is still being built and loaded, if that ever happens, would have had any benefit from nuclear power? By then all electrical generation will be from renewables, which are clean and cheap, and they will be puzzled that anybody could have been so stupid as to use nuclear generation.

  15. We agree most emphatically with you that the nuclear industry has a technical, ethical and legal duty to future generations to deal with this waste. The first and most important part of that duty is not to create any more. The second part is to deal with the legacy, which should be put into safe and secure interim storage. Within a hundred years it is likely that we will have evolved the technology to turn it into something safe, and, if not, at least our successors will have more technological options to choose from.

  16. Mention is made in a number of places about “huge benefits”, “hundreds of jobs”, “over many decades”. But these will be mainly menial jobs, in dangerous conditions underground, working with unproven technologies in unfamiliar environments, with highly dangerous materials. Do we really need that kind of job? We doubt that this will be of any value to any of the communities that might show an interest in this project. The likelihood is that, even within the consultation timetable, let alone the operational timetable, the need for normal jobs and regular pay, as we know them today, will have disappeared. The future is for people no longer to be defined by their job, and not to need a job to provide for their daily needs. The only situations in which the nuclear industry has created thousands of jobs, over many decades, have from the major accidents as Chernobyl and Fukushima. We really don’t want, and don’t need, any more of them.

  17. It is clear that, however unrealistic the aim, your intention is that this facility should exist for hundreds of thousands of years. Yet the NPS tries to limit the consideration of the planning aspects only to the evaluation, construction, loading and closing of the facility, and to deny consideration of the post-closure period. But that is an unacceptable position. Currently, decommissioned nuclear power plants continue to exist, and to contaminate the landscape, for decades after they have been put into care and maintenance, until the radioactivity of all that is left within the building has subsided to a safer level. As we, and you, have no idea at present how this facility would be engineered, we can have no idea what impacts there would be continuing into the post-closure phase. Whatever these might be, they must be considered in the application of the NPS.

  18. Another unacceptable exclusion within the NPS is the issue of regulation of nuclear safety, both by the ONR and by the Environment Agency (EA). You state in various places that, as nuclear safety and control of the safe storage of nuclear waste would be controlled by regulators, these issues cannot be considered as part of the planning considerations. You also state that, as safety would be regulated by these regulators, it would not be reasonable to assume that any accident could happen, because their regulation would not allow it!!! That is a somewhat perverse position to take. Were there really no regulators controlling either Chernobyl or Fukushima? Clearly the issue of serious nuclear accident has to be considered in planning terms, just as now it has to be considered in terms of emergency planning, under the HERCA/WENRA principles. Otherwise, what would there be to stop a GDF being proposed under London, where already you have one of the most explored geological features, and where we are sure that it would be most appropriate to have a GDF?

  19. It is disturbing to see that, for the Environmental Statement, you are merely requiring the applicant to consider a reasonably foreseeable accident, rather than the serious nuclear accident advocated by HERCA/WENRA. This should be changed.

  20. You make a number of references to the “independent regulators”. This is incorrect and misleading. Whilst the ONR claims to be independent, it is not completely, as it operates under the umbrella of the Department of Work and Pensions. The Environment Agency is not at all independent, and comes directly under the control of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We would like to see both regulators becoming truly independent, as is the requirement of the European Union.

  21. You advise the developer that, in the assessment for development consent, it does not need to cover the post-closure safety case, because the EA will deal with licensing the safety of that. But how on earth would an EA inspector dealing with that application within the next twenty years be able to have any idea even what the facility would look like 150 years later, let alone know what other conditions then would be like? Yet if no post-closure safety case were to be agreed at the start, then how could any insurmountable problems be recognised before they arose, and the whole project be stopped before it was too late? These licensing issues do need to be considered along with the application for development consent, and they do need to be included in the remit of both the Examining Authority and the Secretary of State. But how you would hold anyone responsible more than 150 years later for some careless oversight or negligent calculations, we have no idea. And if there is no sense of responsibility, the whole exercise is worthless.

  22. Part of the documentation to support this draft NPS is the inappropriately named Appraisal of Sustainability. As we have already pointed out above, one thing that nuclear power is not is sustainable. In that appraisal you consider two other options instead of the draft NPS as it is. One of these is the option to have a NPS with geographic constraints. Whilst this shows itself to have a number of potential benefits over the draft NPS, you appear to rule it out merely because it is not what the Government wants. We suggest that you revisit this proposal. Whilst the Government does not want to go in that direction, we do not agree. We consider that all National Parks, all AONBs and all RAMSAR sites should be excluded, along with a zone approximately ten miles wide around each of them. Whilst the theory is that no harm can come to these places even if they were chosen, that ignores accidents, and experience of earlier nuclear technologies. We feel that these areas are so important to be preserved that no risk of this sort should be taken with them.

Consultation on the Working with Communities

Summary

  1. Your proposals for working with communities are based on the use of bribery to attract and remunerate potential Host Communities. We find this both distasteful and immoral, and can in no way support it.

  2. You state that you would only proceed with a facility if you had the explicit consent of the community. But you avoid explaining what you mean by that. With Brexit we have seen the absurdity of pretending that a 52% to 48% decision, in a referendum, is a decisive vote. We would not be happy with any decision to support such a project that was not backed by at least 60% of the electorate.

  3. We have grave concerns about changes of Government policy, particularly considering the extraordinarily long time that this project would take. The promises and principles that are expressed in these consultation documents are the policies only of this minority Government. It will change sooner rather than later. Politics is based on short-term fudges, with enough being done to hold off problems until after the next election. It is incompetent to deal with very long term projects, unless planned in agreement with all the main parties. That is not the case with this consultation. How can you guarantee that any community that offers itself to this voluntary scheme won’t find itself being forced against its will to go through with something that it has decided is not for it?

  4. In paragraph 4.77 you highlight the importance of all those participating having confidence in the accuracy of information. We agree completely with the need for this. So why does this document itself carry spurious and incorrect information? At para. 3.5 you claim that the GDF is “the safest and most secure means of permanently managing our higher activity waste”. How do you know? Nobody has ever built one. You don’t even have a design for one. Nobody has ever licensed one. Yet you make claims that you can’t substantiate as if they were proven. And you don’t mention that Sweden has just lost a case in court about the environmental safety of its scheme. Elsewhere there are wild claims about the employment that would be available, but, as you haven’t a clue as to what the design or construction would involve, how can you make such claims? These are merely wishful thinking. That cannot be a sound basis on which to promote a scheme as important as resolving the intractable problem of high-level nuclear waste.

  5. Our greatest concern with your proposed implementation is that the Community Partnership could be hijacked by one or other interest group, and this proposal driven forward with little genuine community support. The role of the chairman would be key in preventing this, but where he or she came from, and what knowledge of local powerful individuals and groups he or she might have, would be too abstract to specify. More thought needs to be given to this.

  6. You recommend that the membership of the Partnership should be decided initially by the initial interested parties. But these will be biased in favour of the process proceeding, whereas it is clear to us that it is necessary to have a balance of opinions amongst its members. It is also important to follow the Swedish model, which requires the inclusion of those opposed, and funds their expenses, to ensure that a balanced viewpoint is taken.

  7. You suggest that the preferred size for the Community Partnership would be 12. Yet you also indicate that you would expect the primary local authorities to sit on it. This could very easily become top-heavy with politically-motivated representatives, driven by small-minded party interests rather than the interests of the community. We believe that these primary local authority members should not represent more than one sixth of the Community Partnership. We also believe that the Parish Councils often more accurately reflect local opinion, particularly where there is a good and active one. Normally they are not party political in the way that the larger authorities are, and their ears are closer to the ground. They should have a seat on the Partnership.

  8. This Partnership could very quickly get filled up with people representing various authorities and interest groups from a much wider area than the host community, and this would best be avoided. At least a third of the Partnership should be from the host community.

  9. Where there were interest from a wide number of groups, we consider that the setting up of sub-groups would be the best way forward. For instance, there could be a business sub-group, to include any Local Enterprise Partnerships, an education sub-group to represent all schools and colleges in the area, an environmental sub-group, even a local authority sub-group if there were too many of them all to have seats on the Partnership. Each sub-group would have one representative on the Partnership.

  10. It appears that you are suggesting that the delivery body should have membership of the Partnership. We don’t consider that appropriate. Yes, it should attend all meetings and provide all information required of it. But it should not be involved in any way in the decision-making process. Its role is more that of servicing the Partnership, not controlling its activities.

  11. All the meetings of the Partnership should be open and transparent, with minutes taken and published promptly. The public should be able to attend and question members as different issues come up.

  12. You suggest 12 as your preferred size for the Partnership. But we consider that even up to 20 would be acceptable, and could be useful.

  13. You suggest that each Partnership would draft its own set of operating procedures. We feel that this opens the door for self-perpetuating oligarchies, which could have their own agendas not driven by the community’s interest. We consider that the delivery body should provide a suggested draft constitution, which could be modified as necessary to meet local needs, and would not be prescriptive.

  14. You suggest that the right of withdrawal should be available at any time up until the test of support, and not thereafter. We recognise that there may well be issues that come up during the planning and licensing processes that the community had not been aware of before, or that change proposals that had been acceptable into ones that no longer are. Or the development consent order itself may be inadequate to cover issues already raised. In any of those cases, and maybe in others, the community might not feel that the planning process had given them the reassurance and support that they needed, and they should still have the right to withdraw. This right should continue until three months after the development consent were granted, or any challenges to it decided.

  15. We have commented above on your proposals as you have presented them. We have highlighted our concerns, both here and in our comments on the NPS consultation, about the unrealistic and highly over-optimistic way in which you have laid out plans for a project far larger than mankind has ever successfully accomplished, both in terms of timescale and technology. Yet, with no special competence, you pretend that you can accomplish it.

  16. The people whom you should really be consulting, but you have made no provision to do so, are those who have not yet been born. They are the ones who are going to have to deal with all the teething troubles of this grandiose scheme that fails to solve the highly toxic and highly radioactive waste burden left by our infantile foray into nuclear weapons. And if previous nuclear projects are anything to go by, for instance like Flamanville, in France, the prototype for Hinkley Point C, then it will be three times over budget and two times over delivery date, and still not fit for purpose. What a wonderful legacy to leave for future generations. Chief Seattle would be proud of us!

17th April 2018