Local democracy dumped

With the 2006 Energy Review, the government proposed a num­ber of initiatives “to reduce the regulatory barriers for new nu­clear build”. EDF and others inter­ested in nuclear new build demanded a “predictable and efficient con­sents and approval process”, getting rid of lengthy planning inquiries such as these had been for Sizewell B. The Planning Act 2008 fast-tracks nuclear power stations and other “nationally sig­nificant infra­structure pro­jects”, thus remo­ving a historic demo­cratic deci­sion-making process.

Applications are centralised at the new Infrastructure Planning Com­mission (IPC): But, as Suf­folk Coastal District Council deputy leader Andy Smith puts it: “I don't think that the IPC has been set up to say no. The pro­blem is that it was set up by the govern­ment to ensure that it gets the 'right' answer.”

In addition, a ‘pre-autho­risation’ system for reactor de­signs was implemented. This followed major pres­sure from the nuclear in­dustry, warning that the only way to guarantee new power stations open on schedule is to fast-track the planning process by pre-licensing reactors before sites are selected – the so-called “ge­neric design assess­ment”. However, the objec­tive of this kind of pre-licensing is clear: It shields consideration of nuclear safety from public scrutiny. Or, as the government itself says: “It should speed up the subsequent site-licensing and consents pro­cess, and offer more certainty to investors at an earlier stage.”

Safety? Democracy? Money makes the world go round.

Andreas Speck