no new nuclear power at oldbury demo today

by ian wright
on Monday 11 Mar 2013

type: News Report
topic: The Environment
region: South West
On Fukushima anniversary, nuclear power company is told - Wrong technology. Wrong place. Better ways to power our future. In spite of a bitingly cold wind, a demonstration by residents of the Forest of Dean, organised by STAND (Severnside Together Against Nuclear Development), saw over 80 people march on the head offices of Horizon/Hitachi, a nuclear power construction consortium, in Gloucester. Hitachi are planning to build a new nuclear power station on the Severn estuary near Oldbury. As well as Forest of Dean residents, concerned people from Stroud, Hereford, and other parts of the region turned up to send a clear message to Hitachi - we do not want your nuclear power station. The demonstration was held to mark the 2nd anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan that led to the meltdown of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima. The accident led to the evacuation of large numbers of people in the area, up to a 30km radius. The resulting radioactivity contaminated much of the area and thousand of inhabitants will never be able to return to their homes. The accident led many countries, including Germany, to decide to abandon nuclear power as a means of electricity generation. A recent poll found that three-quarters of the French population want to abandon nuclear power as well. In spite of this, and in spite of nearly all of the major power companies such as E-ON, RWE and Centrica pulling out of nuclear power, Hitachi are continuing with plans for the nuclear installation at Oldbury. Barbara French, of STAND, speaking to the demonstrators, said “Two years ago today there was an earthquake off the coast of Japan which caused an enormous tsunami. “We are here today to remember the people who suffered in that, and in the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant which followed it. We’re also here to start our campaign to stop Hitachi building another huge nuclear power station on the river  Severn so the people living around the river Severn don’t have the same experience as those in Fukushima.” Barbara French continued: “Two years ago we all watched our TV screens showing the Tsunami in Japan with absolute horror as houses, schools, factories, whole villages, were swept away in the terrifying torrent. “After that devastation it was hard to come to terms with the fact that on top of that horror, TEPCO, who ran the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, had to admit that the site had been inundated, the electric power had gone off, the back up generators were flooded and useless so that the cooling system was not working. This led to the reactors being in meltdown. “Incidentally, one of the units at the station – not working at the time - was built by Hitachi, the same company who are planning to build the new nuclear power station at Oldbury. “There were scenes on our TVs of desperate workers trying to run power cables to install generators and an air of complete panic. We heard of workmen going into the buildings and having highly radioactive water leak over their boots. “We can only begin to imagine how frightening it was for people living locally.  “Many relatives worked at the plant and had to go in in shifts to try to clear up the toxic environment.  They are still trying to clear it up now. “Fishermen began to realise that highly radioactive water was going into the sea, and how it would effect their fish stocks.  “Parents would be frantic worrying about the health of their children. Two years on there are  still high levels of anxiety about what food is safe to eat, and families still can’t go back to their homes in a 20 kilometer radius from the plant.  “So the question is this, Hitachi –  “If you were asked on the 10th March, 2011, by people living locally to the Fukushima Power Station ‘Is this power station safe? Could there be a serious accident here?’ What would you have answered?” James Greenwood then told the crowd that is was not true that nuclear power was necessary to keep the lights on. Other countries had found that investment in renewables and cleaner forms of conventional power stations were better and cheaper. And the long time frame of nuclear power build - Oldbury would not come on stream until at least 2028 - made it unsuitable to fill the energy gap identified by Ofgem. He went on to say: “The other claim made by the nuclear industry, that it would bring employment and money to the area is true - but so would any major energy initiative. It has been estimated that in the Forest of Dean alone, creating renewable energy sources would bring £400 million a year and 7,250 jobs to the area”. Carl Spiby of STAND then read out a letter asking Hitachi to reconsider their proposals.  Representatives from Horizon/Hitachi had previously agreed to meet STAND outside their offices to formally receive the letter, but on the day, in spite of the obviously peaceful nature of the demonstration, they told them their security officers had asked them not to open their doors. They did however agree to receive a letter from them if one person remained behind while everyone else dispersed. In the letter, STAND point out that Hitachi want to build a new nuclear power station in an area already only just above sea level, an area that Gloucestershire County Council assesses has a ‘High Risk’ of flooding, on the banks of a river which already has the second highest tidal range in the world. A site already officially identified by the Government’s own watchdog as liable to erosion and inundation. The letter carries on to say “representatives of Hitachi-Horizon have written to the local press stating that ‘safety is, and will always be, our first concern’; but do you not think the operators of the Fukushima plant the day before that accident would have said exactly the same thing?” The letter ends by saying that there is also a host of other reasons for not building new nuclear installations: the environmental impact; the lack of a long term safe solution for waste management and storage; the years of incidents and accidents; and the leukaemia clusters linked to low-level radiation.