On Friday September 23rd 2016 Essex County Council voted to allow Magnox Limited to move intermediate level nuclear waste from their Sizewell and Dungeness nuclear power stations into the new storage facility to the east of the Bradwell reactor buildings just across the water from Mersea.
The experience of watching the Development and Regulation Committee (think Planning) consider the application swung between watching your sports team playing far better than the opposition yet still conceding against the run of play and a weird, dark drama where the truth is subverted in deference to the Party line by deliberately missing a penalty.
Essentially this application is for a lifting of the planning restrictions the same Council voted for just 4 years ago ie: that the Interim Storage Facility (ISF) could only contain Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) from Bradwell’s own decommissioning processes.
After a lengthy submission by the Planning Officer opportunities were given for pre booked presentations for and against the proposal which could last for only three minutes. First to go was BANNG's Barry Turner who ably delivered a compelling romp through the inconsistencies in the documentation. This was followed by Mrs Judy Lea, from the Maldon area, who gently made emotive points that conveyed the seriousness of the impact this would have. There then followed two brief pitches for the proposal from Magnox and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA - keep up!) which were astonishingly poor in delivery, conviction and believability.
Thereafter the debate was conducted solely by the councillors with Mersea resident Cllr John Jowers (Conservative Party) giving a remarkable sermon in full support of his constituency passionately condemning the proposal. Then, inexplicably, as he neared the end of his contribution confessed he felt bound to vote for the proposal on the grounds of a ‘quasi judicial issue’ simply because it would eventually go through on appeal from Magnox. Astonishing!
The Mersea posse was stunned along with representatives from Tollesbury and Maldon. Furthermore Cllr Jowers was given the impression that the radioactive discharges into the river arising from the Fuel Element Debris (FED) dissolution process have finished. This is fundamentally both erroneous and deeply concerning in that this was not corrected, at the time, by the Planning Officer. I would like to think this would have enabled a vote more in line with conviction rather than acquiescence to national government ‘policy’.
Next to speak was Cllr James Abbott (Green Party) who made specific requests to establish where the data was in the application to support the generic claims made on Climate Change aspects comparing effects of transport versus buildings. This was bounced back to the planning officer who effectively dismissed these points on the basis that Magnox had done their homework, therefore it was fine and also, in his opinion, it was ‘basic common sense’.
Cllr Michael Mackrory (Liberal Democrat Party) also made considered points including drawing reasonable conclusions on the potential high level of risk from the caution given about time windows to transport the ILW containers through villages in the Dengie. Furthermore he was concerned about project creep as he considered members only granted the original permission because of the condition they were now being asked to rescind. Cllr Colin Seagers (Conservative Party) suggested that actually an amount of ‘aforethought’ was Magnox’s ‘intent always to use this as additional storage for other sites’ at the time of the original planning application. Amongst other contributions Cllr Sue Lissimore (Conservative Party) also made a pitch that aligned herself with Cllr Jowers and said she was not comfortable with abstaining... and then abstained.
So respect to Cllrs Abbott and Mackrory for having the spine to vote in line with the courage of their convictions, the laws of physics and putting people above political and fiscal expediency. For the BANNG team I travelled with and yours truly it was both shocking and disappointing. However, on reflection that personal disappointment is tempered with the determination to do much more…
We all know that what looms on the horizon is massive, let’s choose to sing in perfect harmony… all together now “there may be trouble ahead”.
Peter Banks - First appeared in the Mersea Island Courier 2nd October 2016
Click here to hear full audio from Essex County Council website