FIE’s successful complaint to the UN Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context [ESPOO] in March 2013 that we in Ireland had been deprived of our right to be consulted by the UK before constructing the first of a new series of nuclear power plants continues to play out across Europe.
Ireland’s position is that since the United Kingdom had concluded that ‘the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary’, the activity was not likely to give rise to a significant adverse transboundary impacts and the requirements under the Convention regarding notification to other States did not arise.
As an Austrian study submitted to the Committee stated, however, ‘A conservative worst case release scenario should have been included in the EIA. A source term, for example for an early containment failure or containment bypass scenario, should have been analyzed as part of the EIA – in particular because of its relevance for impacts at greater distances.’
As a result of the complaint, work may now have to be halted at the Hinkley C power plant construction site to allow for consultation.
Minister Denis Naughten,
Department of Communications, Climate action and Environment
29-31 Adelaide Road
Dublin D02 X285
19 March 2017
Re: Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context: Hinkley Point C
Dear Minister Naughten,
We wrote to your predecessor, Phil Hogan, in March 2013 asking him to intervene to ensure that the provisions of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context are respected by the UK Government, ensuring that Irish citizen's rights to participate in the EIA of the proposed new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point are respected. (https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/attachments/article/16590/Minister-letter-15.03.13.pdf)
To the best of our knowledge, the Minister did not take any steps to vindicate the public participation rights of Irish citizens.
The UK Government went ahead with a decision on the Hinkley Point plan without complying with the provisions of the Espoo Convention. In response, we complained to the Implementation Committee of the Convention. (https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/attachments/article/16592/Espoo-complaint-and-supplementary-25.03.13.pdf)
Following receipt of our complaint and a similar one from Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, a member of the German Bundestag, the Implementation Committee considered the issue. It wrote, inter alia, to the Irish Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on 14th October 2013 asking whether the Government of Ireland considered that the proposed nuclear power plant was likely to cause significant transboundary environmental impact on the territory of Ireland.
The Department response on 22nd November 2013 did not attempt to address the question asked by the Committee as to what the Irish Government's view was of the potential transboundary effect of the proposed power plant. Instead (as summarised by the implementation committee) it "claimed that since the United Kingdom had concluded that the activity was not likely to give rise to a significant adverse transboundary impacts on the environment of another European Economic Area State, the requirements under the Convention regarding notification to other States did not arise and formal notification was not necessary." It also referred to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland’s [RPII] report "Proposed nuclear power plants in the UK – potential radiological implications for Ireland."
However, it did not set out the environmental impacts on the Irish territory which that RPII report predicted in the event of an unplanned release of radioactive material, in a contradiction of the UK's conclusions as to transboundary impacts.
We find it impossible to understand why your Department was unwilling to answer the simple question put by the Implementation Committee in November 2013, failed to set out the Irish Government's opinion as requested, but instead presented a legally mistaken interpretation of the Convention which minimised the rights of Irish citizens to participate in a transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) process in relation to a proposed new nuclear power plant across the Irish Sea.
At its meeting on in March 2016 the Implementation Committee concluded its deliberations, making the following findings:
"The Committee notes that the activity at Hinkley Point C is a proposed activity listed in appendix I, paragraph 2, and finds that the characteristics of the activity and its location warrant the conclusion that a significant adverse transboundary impact cannot be excluded in case of a major accident, an accident beyond design basis or a disaster. The Committee also finds that, as a consequence of its conclusion concerning the likely significant adverse transboundary environmental impact, the United Kingdom is in non-compliance with its obligations under article 2, paragraph 4, and article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention."
The Committee's recommendations to the Meeting of the Parties (MOP), to be held in June 2017, included recommendations that the MOP:
"(b) Invite the United Kingdom to enter into discussions with possibly affected Parties, including Parties that cannot exclude a significant adverse transboundary impact from the activity at Hinkley Point C, in order to agree on whether notification is useful at the current stage for this proposed activity;
"(c) Ask the United Kingdom to report to the Committee on the results of its discussions;"
We recently learned that the UK took actions in advance of the June 2017 MOP meeting to confirm the ruling of the Implementation Committee and on 21 December 2016 asked several states if they wanted a delayed transboundary participation procedure at the current stage for Hinkley Point in line with recommendation (b). We understand from Ms Kotting-Uhl that three countries, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany responded in the affirmative.
The Committee recently recommend to the MOP that if a potentially affected Party requests to be notified, the United Kingdom should suspend works related to the proposed activity until the transboundary EIA procedure is finalized. Therefore, the UK should now refrain from carrying out further works at the proposed activity until the required trans-boundary assessment is completed.
While the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union will not affect its obligations under the Espoo Convention, given the decision of the UK Government to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty confirmed on 26 January, 2017, it is more essential than ever at this time of great change that you ensure that your Department actively engages itself in relation to the reducing and eliminating the risks which Ireland faces from nuclear power in nearby countries, as set out in the RPII report and in the subsequent ESRI 2016 study on "The potential economic impact of a nuclear accident - An Irish case study".
We are aware that a regular bi-annual meeting of the UK-Ireland Contact Group on Radiological Matters is scheduled for late April. In this context we would be grateful for your assurances that you will ensure Ireland’s commitment to this treaty and the rights of Irish citizens to participate in the transboundary EIA process in relation to nuclear power projects in the UK.
We would be grateful if you provided us with Ireland’s response to the December 2016 invitation from the United Kingdom (if any was received by Ireland and if any response was made) and for your reassurance that policy changes have been made since 2013 to support the right of Irish citizens to partake in trans-boundary decisions which examples in other jurisdictions have shown can dramatically impact on lives for many generations.
Tony Lowes, Director
Caroline Lewis, Director
Almost a year after FIE began to investigate the felling of protected trees during the bird nesting season at Ireland’s largest private estate, the Minister for Agriculture has confirmed the felling of at least 9 specimen oak trees between 60 and 80 years old – with some even older – even though the Department had tried to specifically protect them with a cover letter to the licence. The cover letter proved invalid and while procedures have been changed, there is no way to enforce existing licences with these kinds of conditions. Even worse, when Minister for Heritage Heather Humphries had a report prepared by her Parks and Wildlife Service confirming the felling in response to a Parliamentary Question from James Bannon about the felling in December 2015, she told neither the Guards nor the Forest Service – nor did she ever answer the Deputy as promised. As a result, no prosecution can be undertaken of Lady Georgiana Forbes because of the passage of time.
The submission considering the following questions in relation to its forest policy document Forests, products and people, Ireland’s forest policy – a renewed vision;
What changes are required to existing strategic actions so that current and future potential needs of the sector can be addressed?
What new policies are needed to deal with current and future opportunities and/or threats to the sector?
What new policy instruments or changes to existing instruments should be considered in order to ensure the future sustainable development of the sector?
FIEs presentation at the Salmon Watch Ireland Conference addressed the enormous scope of the environmental impact of salmon farming on eco systems as far away as the Antarctic, outlining how the use of the English language has been twisted to allow the Aquaculture Stewardship Council to certify that farmed salmon receiving food that is composed entirely of fish can claim that in fact the food has no fish in it, how chemicals designed to kill parasites are in fact medicines and so need little environmental assessment, and how the Department of Marine ignored appeals from Donegal County Council to control overstocking at Marine Harvests Lough Alton smoult site and instead gave permission for the overstocking – without any assessment of the impact. And how the biggest environmental impact may be the loss of credibility for the word ‘organic’.