Not all people are supportive of nuclear expansion taking place in the South West. Some feel that, following the disaster in Japan at Fukushima in 2011, nuclear expansion should be halted, and safer, more environmentally-friendly energy sources should be embraced.
“Stop Hinkley” is the most prominent protest group against the expansion and continuing operation of the Nuclear Power station at Hinkley Point. It was founded in the 1980s, to protest against a new reactor that was to be known as Hinkley C. Thanks in part to their campaigning, the reactor was shelved in 1996. Furthermore, in 1999, thanks to continuous campaigning, Hinkley A was closed, citing that the station had lost its credibility.
Nikki Clark, spokesperson for the organisation, feels that the reasons for opposing the expansion at Hinkley Point cannot be explained simply. She said: “There isn’t just one reason. People oppose nuclear power for all sorts of reasons, from environmental ones to issues of safety.”
Stop Hinkley published an ecological assessment of the site in 2011. In their assessment, they conclude that EDF Energy have not done enough to protect the environment in the area of the build. It says: “As an example of this nowhere in the application is the total biodiversity loss clearly stated. Baseline ecological data for many major groups are missing. Notable omissions are those for small mammals, bryophytes, lichens, fungi and soil arthropods.
“How can EDF demonstrate that there has been no net loss in biodiversity under Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) if baseline data has not first been established?”
The site is adjacent to the Severn Estuary Special Area of Conservation, the Severn Estuary Special Protection Area and the Severn Estuary Ramsar site, as well as adjoining the Bridgwater bay Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve. Therefore, Stop Hinkley claims that the biodiversity and habitats in the area need more protections than EDF have been giving them.
The organisation feels that the impact on wildlife at the site are based on guesswork, and that EDF has not truly assessed the ecological impact that their construction will have on the area. They found no evidence that a Habitat Regulation Assessment had been done. They claim that the assessment of Hinkley Point’s environmental impact does not follow good practice guidelines.
The report further states the effect that expansion would have on the environment at the site. It says: “Habitat destruction within the proposed site will be almost total. All plant communities above ground will be removed and all available habitats to animals lost for many years.”
It continues: “Without more ecological data it is difficult to see how EDF have applied the principles of sustainable development to the proposed development site. Avoidance, minimisation, mitigation and compensation for ecological impacts are made difficult without appropriate ecological data to inform the process. Habitat creation is a challenging process at the best of times, but is almost impossible if you lack a full understanding of the species composition and relative abundance of a site in the first place.”
Overall, Stop Hinkley criticises EDF Energy for their proposal. They state: “Stop Hinkley is in strong agreement with Somerset Wildlife Trust, which says that ‘biodiversity is declining rapidly in the UK, as elsewhere in the world. It is of paramount importance that development benefits wildlife, rather than contributing to its ongoing losses’.
“EDF have failed to present a proposal that reflects their stated ‘environmental responsibility’ and are driving forward an application which exacerbates the local trend of wildlife decline.”
Nikki Clark also feels that the development will not benefit the local community in the way that EDF claim. She said: “They’re not going to get jobs locally. People are going to come from further afield to work on the site. And, with the nuclear development, I can’t see that many people wanting to holiday here.”
However, she is optimistic about the fight against Hinkley Point C, in particular due to the inquiry by the European Commission over the legality of the deal between EDF and the UK government. She said: “I can’t see EDF making a decision until this legal decision has been made. Nothing is going ahead right now, not until the Commission comes to a decision. EDF aren’t going to invest money into this until they are sure they can make returns.”