Legal challenge filed to UK new nuclear power program
Barcelona (Platts)--25Mar2011/806 am EDT/1206 GMT
The UK could be forced to re-do a cost-benefit analysis on new nuclear
power plants if a High Court challenge to the government's "justification" for
new reactors is successful.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, working on behalf of a Lancashire man living
near the Heysham nuclear power plant, asked the High Court to declare the
government's justification for new reactors unlawful.
The law firm claims that the government's justification failed to make
proper estimates of health detriment and failed fully to take into account
scientific research findings showing increased leukemia risks near nuclear
facilities, according to a statement Friday from Irwin Mitchell.
The lawsuit could force the government to re-do the justification
process, which took several years to complete, and could even lead to the
conclusion that new reactors are not justified, according to a spokesman at
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.
The legal challenge was launched February 28 and the High Court is
awaiting a government response, expected shortly, before deciding whether to
hear the case, the spokesman said.
EXPANSION PLANS IN JEOPARDY
The High Court review and subsequent ruling could mark a major setback to
the government's plans to have up to 16 GW of new nuclear power on line by
EDF Energy, with Centrica, plan to build up to 6,400 MW of new nuclear
capacity, or four Areva EPR reactors.
Horizon Nuclear Power, a joint venture of RWE and E.On, plan to build up
to 6,000 MW of new capacity.
NuGeneration, a consortium of GDF Suez, Iberdrola and Scottish and
Southern Energy, plan to build up to 3,600 MW of new nuclear capacity.
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne ruled October 18 that the Areva EPR and
Westinghouse AP1000 reactor designs were justified for use in the UK.
Justification is a requirement under EU basic nuclear safety standards.
Justification is a cost/benefit analysis where the potential risks from
the introduction of new uses of ionizing radiation must be weighted against
In approving the justification last October, Huhne turned down requests
for a public inquiry and said that two separate public consultations on
justification had been sufficient opportunity for the public to make their
Huhne concluded that an inquiry or other hearing as part of the process
"would produce insufficient further information or other benefit to justify
delaying the making of these decisions and that it is not expedient to do so."
But solicitors at Irwin Mitchell said in their statement Friday that
justification is the only stage at which health risks are fully analysed and
compared with the benefits.
"The Government's approach to justification does not appear to give the
protection that the regulations were designed to provide," it said.
A Lancashire man, 24-year-old Rory Walker, who lives near the Heysham
nuclear site, one of eight designated for new reactors under the government's
nuclear National Policy Statement, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
He applied for and won legal aid from the Legal Services Commission to
file the court challenge.
"My concern is the effect of radiation emissions on myself and my
community and the potentially long-lasting impact of radiation on people like
myself wanting to start a family," Walker said, according to the Irwin
Andrew Lockley, partner and head of public law at Irwin Mitchell, said
the main purpose of justification is "to make sure that a comprehensive and
detailed assessment is made before new nuclear reactors are built. It does not
permit an approach which appears generalised, generic and deferred.
"Justification requires that the health detriments should be considered
and balanced against the economic, social or other benefits which may occur
but this doesn't seem to have happened here," he said.
--David Stellfox, email@example.com
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