18 March 2017
Work at the UK’s proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is under threat after investigation of a complaint to a UN Committee by the Irish environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment and a German Member of the Bunderstag German MP Sylvia Kotting-Uhl.
Following the UK Government's decision to approve the Hinkley Point C power plant without consulting the affected public in Ireland and other European Countries, FIE complained to the United Nations Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context 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
The UN Espoo Convention, signed in the Finish city of Espoo in 1991, requires that the Party of origin ‘shall ensure that the opportunity provided to the public of the affected Party is equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin.’ Ireland is signature to the Convention.
No such consultation took place before construction began on the UK nuclear plant. The Committee up held the complaints and ruled in June 2016 that the UK Government had failed to ensure that citizens of neighbouring countries had an equal right to be consulted about the proposed nuclear plant.
The Committee recommended that the United Kingdom contact neighboring governments to determine if they wished to be consulted as part of a transboundary EIA procedure. The Committee also decided to recommend to the Meeting of the Parties 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.
According to information obtained by Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, the UK accordingly wrote to neighbouring countries 21 December, 2016. The MP confirmed that three countries – Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands - had responded seeking such a procedure, triggering the request to suspend work.
Ireland’s position from 2013 is that since the United Kingdom had concluded ‘the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary’ that the requirements under the Convention regarding notification to other States did not arise and formal notification was not necessary.
Citing the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland [RPII] report and the subsequent ESRI 2016 study on "The potential economic impact of a nuclear accident - An Irish case study", FIE has written to Minister Naughten asking him what response Ireland made to the 21 December 2016 letter from the UK.
In its letter to the Minister, FIE drew attention to the UK’s decision of January 2017 to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty and sought reassurances ‘that policy changes have been made since 2013 to support the right of Irish citizens to partake in trans-boundary decisions.
‘The current Japanese liability for the continuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster stands as a stark warning against those, like the Irish Government, who accept the UK arguments that trans-boundary risks are so small as not to require assessment. Despite this, the Irish Department of the Environment and successive Ministers have sought to wash their hands of this matter. It is now up to Minister Naughten to stand up for public safety and to assert the rights of Irish citizens to participate in a transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment.’
Comments: FIE Tony Lowes 087 2176316
Sylvia Kotting-Uhl MP, Spokesperson on nuclear policy issues, Parliametary group Alliance 90/The Greens Tel +49 30 227 747 42