Irish Implications of a Severe Accident at Sizewell

Posted: 5th April 2021


An Irish agency has complained to British authorities that they have not
sufficiently assessed the potential implications for Ireland of a severe
accident at a planned nuclear facility on the east coast of England, more
than 500km away. In a submission to the UK’s Planning Inspectorate last
October, the Environmental Protection Agency claimed the “major accidents
and disasters assessment” for the Sizewell C project had “a number of
limitations, including the fact that no modelling or detailed calculations
were undertaken”. It disputed the inspectorate’s conclusion that the
plant, which is due for completion in 2031, was unlikely to have a
significant effect on the environment in any other European country. “The
EPA believes that this environmental impact assessment does not
sufficiently address the transboundary implications of a severe
accident,” it said. “A severe accident at Sizewell C, combined with
unfavourable weather which resulted in radioactive contamination in
Ireland, could lead to food controls and agricultural protective actions
being introduced.” It cited a study by the Economic and Social Research
Institute that claimed a nuclear accident anywhere in northwest Europe
would cost Ireland about €4 billion, even if there was no contamination
here, because of the damage to tourism and export markets. It acknowledged
that the normal operation of the plant, which will be located more than
520km from Ireland’s east coast, would have no measurable radiological
impact in this country or on the Irish marine environment. The joint
Oireachtas committee on housing, local government and heritage has also
filed an objection to the project, claiming it has concerns about nuclear
regulation in Britain after it leaves Euratom, the European nuclear energy
treaty, as part of Brexit. “The committee has concerns that once Britain
has left Euratom, [its] government will no longer be subject to legal
proceedings at the European Court of Justice [ECJ] in the event of failures
to comply with nuclear safety regulations,” the committee said. “Taking
into account the absence of access to the ECJ post-Brexit, the ambiguity of
the long-term funding of a new nuclear regulator, and the potential impacts
to the Irish public and the Irish economy in the event of an incident, [we]
would like to register an objection to the proposed development.” Britain
consulted Ireland on the Sizewell C project under the Espoo Convention,
which requires international consultation on activities that may have an
adverse transboundary environmental effect. Tony Lowes of Friends of the
Irish Environment, which campaigned for Ireland to be consulted on
Britain’s nuclear plans under Espoo, said: “The question of liability
after Brexit has not been answered.”

Times 4th April 2021

Find out more – call Caroline on 01722 321865 or email us.