Friday, 28 September 2018

BanksyBoy BANNG-ing on: the Video Blog

Yes, OK, I have neglected this blog for way too long!

The trouble / excuse / reality is I have been incredibly busy. Pretty much since 2016 I have managed to become embroiled in local politics as a result of standing for the Green Party in May 2016. My principal, and principled, policy was as an anti new nuclear build campaigner for which I am hugely grateful for the welcome I received into the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) fold. This has led to being able to meet key players in national government and the various regulators, enabling me to become a contributor to the debate as well as someone always willing to glean more information.

My latest endeavour is video blogging for BANNG. My initial project was to capture the spirit of the day the CND Symbol Tour visited both the former Bradwell Power Station site and then popped over the Blackwater to my home town of West Mersea... here's the evidence set to Café Musica's rendition of the traditional tune Blackberry Blossom:

This dropped me into the deep end of basic video editing (iMovie) and subsequently I attempted to talk to camera (iPhone SE) for the true vBlog at the top of this page on Nuclear Waste.

So I would be delighted if can check it out (in joke) and let me know what further subjects you consider would be future topics?


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Still Standing and Green through and through

Mersea & Pyefleet

Mersea & Pyefleet
ConservativeRobert Davidson1,37342.0Decrease3.8
IndependentJohn Akker1,20236.8New
GreenPeter Banks37411.4Decrease1.4
LabourBarry Gilheany2196.7Decrease7.7
Liberal DemocratGemma Graham993.0Decrease2.6
Conservative holdSwingDecrease20.3

So here are the results from last week's election... in the Colchester & District Green Party target ward of Castle we missed out by just 11 votes. My vote was the 2nd largest in the Borough.

As you can see all the candidates gave votes away to the single issue Independent candidate Mr Akker. However, this is contrary to his press statement "Mr Akker also pointed to the 374 votes taken by Green candidate Peter Banks, adding: “While of course they are completely entitled to stand, they have taken away crucial votes from another, stronger candidate who is also opposing over-development”.


Thursday, 26 April 2018

Help Make Mersea Green 3rd May 2018...

#VoteGreen2018 in the Colchester Borough Council Elections on May 3rd 2018
Download full A4 leaflet here.


Promoted by Robbie Spence on behalf of Peter Banks, both of 124 Morant Road, Colchester CO1 2JD

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Other Beast from the East

The Other Beast from the East

It has been a busy time lately. BANNG has attended a number of meetings and Prof. Andy Blowers has been involved as an expert in the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) consultation process. And on top of that the weather has thrown a wobbly which has potential implications on the decisions for energy policies.

New sites for old

There have been two important meetings. One concerned the Government’s consultation on reviewing the siting criteria for new nuclear power stations. For all of us concerned about the Government’s headlong rush towards more ridiculous nuclear development it is vital to respond to this consultation. (Please see:

Three BANNG representatives (Andy, Varrie and myself) were invited to London for the BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) Nuclear Forum session to discuss this consultation. Andy Blowers was also asked to represent Colchester Borough Council, which, in contrast to Maldon District Council, is also opposing the Bradwell site.

A number of NGOs were represented, including the NFLA (Nuclear Free Local Authorities), plus groups opposing new nuclear power at Wylfa (Wales), Sizewell B (Suffolk) and Moorside (Cumbria). It is at meetings like these that you can discern the similarities and differences relating to the proximity of a proposed site in your own area.

Clearly the Government is attempting to extend the time period allocated for selecting potential new nuclear sites. The sites included in the previous consultation on the siting criteria in 2008 should have had power stations generating by 2025 and even Hinkley Point C (HPC) has only a remote chance of being up and running by then. So apart from HPC, the Government is carrying all the sites (including Bradwell) forward to 2035. One astonishing admission at this meeting was that the Government has decided, at this stage, not to review, revise and update the energy policy put forward and agreed in 2011. For example, despite the radical changes that everyone knows have occurred, the policy statement on renewable energy will remain unchanged. And yet renewables now contribute more to the energy mix which surely means that the overall energy plan needs to be updated.

Concerns about Bradwell

BANNG also had an important strategic meeting with the Nuclear New Build departments of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA). This event was co-chaired by BANNG’s Andy Blowers and the EA’s Simon Barlow. The meeting was attended by senior representatives from the EA and ONR and 6 from BANNG. Andy Blowers once again was also able to represent Colchester Borough Council.

The EA and ONR opened the meeting with presentations on the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) and outlined the siting criteria procedures, and touched on the problem of managing spent fuel on-site over the long term. There was discussion of specific issues raised by BANNG: the proposals for Bradwell B; marine concerns; Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI); transport logistics; and climate change.

During the meeting it became clear that the regulators do have serious concerns around the marine ecology and particularly cooling water insufficiency regarding Bradwell B. However, the BANNG representatives were puzzled by the confidence shown in the reactor design and in the prospect of decommissioning and safely managing nuclear wastes on-site for at least 100 years, which is longer than the industry has even been around.

Reasons to be cheerful?

It was reassuring that our considered logistical and scientific concerns are being taken seriously. However, it was less reassuring to be told that we were the only organisation so far to have requested any sort of meeting or discussion.

I do think there is some room for optimism though. It is possible that at least one or two of the sites listed as potentially suitable for new nuclear development will no longer be able to meet the criteria. Also it is possible, sadly less likely, that the current Government will actually see some fiscal and moral sense not to proceed with such vigour with the new nuclear power stations. It could be they are looking for a way out of the monumental mistake that they are championing.

Significantly, over the extreme weather period last week the lights did not go out even though there were all sorts of issues with the current ageing fleet of Nuclear Power Stations. In fact it was wind power that supplemented the energy needed even though a component from coal fired stations was also called on. The latter supply was principally requested because the gas supplies were being diverted from energy production to domestic heating as the temperatures plummeted.

Which leads to a fear that the Government will just revert to the outdated thinking of requiring ‘base-load’ electricity and use the inclement weather as an excuse to continue to navigate toward nuclear. Let’s hope that wisdom prevails.

Article first appeared in the Mersea Island Courier 17th March 2018

Friday, 23 June 2017

FED is DEAD... Renewables give new life...

  • Fuel Element Debris (FED) Dissolution ended 17th June 2017
  • Government fined £100 million - Taxpayers foot bill

  • Of course, the headline reflects the relief that the process of FED Dissolution at Bradwell has finished yet also effectively leaves a bitter ‘taste’ of potentially radioactive sludge in the Blackwater estuary. This was just one of the significant items of news from the latest Local Community Liaison Committee (LCLC) meetings held Wednesday 21st June 2017 attended by members of BANNG, West Mersea Town Councillors, representatives from other local councils and, notably, Cllr Paul Smith, leader of Colchester Borough Council.

    Historically the LCLC meetings have always been relatively inconclusive with an apparent defensive response from questions raised by attendees. This time the atmosphere was tangibly different, presentations celebrated progress made rather than delivered with an air of concealment and, significantly, questions raised from the floor were answered with a clarity and detail that hitherto had been absent.

    After the usual opening formalities new site closure director Bob Nichols (Bob) was introduced and he proceeded to deliver his report. Within this the news on FED was made and it was clear that there is a palpable sense of relief that all FED has now left the site. A total of 1000 batches of FED waste were processed through the dissolution plant, 140 tonnes were classified as Low Level Waste (LLW) and sent to Drigg whilst 65 tonnes were classified as Intermediate Level Waste (ILW).

    Additionally, other concerns raised in the December 2016 LCLC about site security once in Care & Maintenance (C&M) were also allayed along with one of my specific requests to carry out a ‘dry run’ of the movement of Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) containers from Southminster to the ILW store. To date 134 Bradwell ILW packages have been completed out of an expected final total of 146 Bradwell packages to go into the store. The inbound shipments from Dungeness and Sizewell are expected to start arriving in September of 2 shipments per month of 3 containers each.

    With the Bradwell site decommissioning progress the phrase “Lead and Learn” was quoted a few times as, essentially, work at Bradwell leads the way and this information will be shared to aid the work on the other 11 Magnox sites. Technically the whole site has been sub-divided into 20 areas including sections such as earth mounds outside the current perimeter fence (Area 9) where some contamination was found from a pre 2002 leak from a drain. Utilising this zoning process will result in the development of a knowledge base that will be held for future technicians to consult when the final dismantling takes place around the year 2100. Does my daisy look big in this?!!

    With the substantial progress made Reactor 1 will be C&M ready by October this year and, subject to Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) inspection, fully in C&M by 2018 with Reactor 2 following 6-9 months later. 62 buildings have been removed since April 2016 and large quantities of asbestos disposed of from the reactor buildings. The issue of the type of cladding was tackled within Bob’s report and has the highest fire resistance rating making it clearly different from the type used around Grenfell Tower.

     Bob suggested that, in his unofficial view, security guards should be employed but, as yet, that is not confirmed, He did confirm there will be some staff (I hesitat to use the description ‘skeleton staff’!) remaining on site.

    It should be noted that seismic activity was included twice in the talk.

    During questioning Bob confirmed the concrete bases supporting the remaining boilers are undergoing major structural strengthening. He also confirmed the FED Dissolution plant will be dismantled over the next 4-6 months once its components have been decontaminated. The pipework will still be used to discharge rainfall.

    Next up was Jonathan from the NDA who gave more background into the monumental bungle the government over awarding the contract to Cavendish Fluor. Whilst he reinforced assurances that this will not happen again and the setting up of an enquiry lead by former National Grid’s Steve Holliday the fact is the taxpayer will be paying £100 million pounds. This is yet another sum to be added onto the true cost of Nuclear Power, the most subsidised form of electricity generation (pause to imitate Jeremy Clarkson) “In The World”.

    This section was a bit gloomy but Jonathan both answered questions comprehensively and has offered to be a contact within the NDA to find the best person to forward subsequent enquiries to.

    The Environment Agency Phil Heaton’s turn followed who gave no substantive new information or data. I questioned him about the Track of the Port of London Authority survey vessel which he knew nothing about, however, a Magnox member of staff answered that it had been employed to check seabed scouring.

    This was followed by a presentation from Simon Napper from the relatively newly formed Radioactive Waste Management, part of the NDA. This included a comprehensive image of the process of developing a final repository for the full range of existing radioactive waste. Professor Andy Blowers was mentioned and praised as one of the contributors to the overall plan.

    Simon handed over to a colleague and, despite the massive importance of this project, his unscripted talk rambled on and on to such an extent that the plot became more like a script from ‘Yes Minister’ where I imagined Sir Humphrey attempting to explain to Jim Hacker the need to have a consultation period on a forthcoming consultation yet be unable to specify costs because how could one estimate something that hadn’t happened yet! I think this was the low point as it is clearly so critical to move forward in having a definite plan to deal with waste.

    Overall I would conclude that this LCLC marked a turning point. Whilst there were only crumbs to glean about Bradwell B at least we know that the Blackwater Estuary will no longer receive radioactive pollutants and that the site will be more robustly secured once in C&M. However, there is still the issue of intermediate level waste within the graphite cores still in-situ.

    A closing paradoxical thought is that Bob mentioned that Magnox will never release FED dissolution effluent into the wild again, confirming fears that it should never have happened. This demonstrates that BANNG and companion protesters were right all along.

    Now there is ONLY one way to avoid future radioactive deposits being released into the Blackwater estuary and that is to prevent Bradwell B ever being built...


    Tuesday, 20 June 2017

    The Rubber Wellies - Pirate Song #TunesDay

    Went to see The Rubber Wellies recently at the rather wonderful Folk at the Froize, a monthly or so event in darkest Suffolk which combines live music and delicious food, what could be better?!

    I first caught the Wellies at the Greenbelt Festival, at which they will be appearing this year too, and I was hooked. Their song lyrics' apparent charm often camouflage hard hitting social justice messages and therefore their appeal is on multiple levels. The musicianship and relaxed stagecraft is impeccable and ideal for the intimate venue the Froize provides.

    I strongly recommend you catch them before they become a distant spec on a massive stage!