Hinkley Point, around 10 miles from Bridgwater on the Somerset coast, is the site of one existing nuclear power station, plus another that was decommissioned in 2000. A third power station, Hinkley C, was first mooted in the 1980s, but abandoned in 1996. In 2002, the Blair administration announced a moratorium on building new nuclear power stations in Britain, but in 2016, Theresa May’s government approved plans by the French state-owned electricity company EDF to revive the project, using an experimental Chinese design that China has, wisely from their point of view, decided to test out thousands of miles from their shores before approving for use at home. The Wessex Regionalists are opposed to nuclear power on principle. Not only does it damage the environment, but it requires a massive security apparatus to prevent materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands. It is a negation of the “small is beautiful” philosophy that drives all our policies. Our ideal would be small-scale renewable energy installations for each home, farm or place of business, allowing it to be self-sufficient in energy. Where this is impractical, energy cooperatives could be formed in local communities.
Some environmentalists such as George Monbiot have defended nuclear power as a lesser evil than the burning of fossil fuels, seeing it as a transitional phase on the road to a renewable future. Unfortunately for them, the government has also licenced seven sites for fracking within an area of coastal Somerset stretching from Blue Anchor Bay to Weston-Super-Mare, an area which includes Hinkley Point. Fracking, in addition to being an extremely polluting form of fossil fuel extraction, has been known in some cases to cause earthquakes. Seismic activity near a nuclear power station – what could possibly go wrong?
We should probably say something here about another energy project which has been proposed from time to time – a Severn barrage. Whilst the most recent proposal for one collapsed in 2104, the idea has been mooted several times over the last 150 years, and may well surface again. We opposed the plans on environmental grounds. They would have disrupted local wildlife habitats, and required an amount of concrete the size of the Mendips to construct. However, for the same cost as a barrage, we could have built 150 tidal lagoons. These resemble small, rocky islands containing turbines that harness the power of the tides, turning them into a non-invasive, stable source of energy that would have taken up 40% less space than a barrage and not disrupted marine life to anything like the degree that a barrage would. This was the proposal supported by Friends of the Earth at the time the barrage was being discussed, and is one that the Wessex Regionalists could get behind; though our preference is still for small-scale, local projects over larger ones.
Stop Hinkley C: http://stophinkley.org
Frack-Free Exmoor, Quantocks and Sedgemoor: http://www.frackfreeeqs.co.uk/