Sizewell: Anti-nuclear campaigners claim stakeholder group is ‘muzzled’ over Fukushima Power Plant disaster

ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners have accused an industry watchdog of being “muzzled” after they were told they would not be allowed to discuss the situation in disaster struck Japan at its next meeting.

Richard Smith, chairman of the Sizewell A and B Stakeholder Group (SSG), has sent out a letter asking that questions and detailed remarks about the stricken Fukushima Power Plant be avoided at its AGM in June.

He said instead there would be a dedicated meeting following the publication of the Government report into the disaster, which is due out in September.

But campaigners from Shut Down Sizewell have criticised the move - claiming it made a “mockery” of the system and prevented the public from expressing their fears.

Peter Lanyon, a member of the group, said: “The SSG exists as an open forum for community concerns by providing independent information about nuclear matters, and to act as a facilitator for the two-way flow of that information.

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“Forbidding any discussion of Fukushima until September makes a mockery of the whole thing.

“The media may discuss Fukushima until the cows come home, and Tom, Dick and Harriett can benefit as much as they like from independent information about the Japanese disaster. Yet the plan is that the SSG, using public money so it may facilitate information flow about the safety of the nuclear industry, is to be absolutely muzzled.”

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The Fukushima Power Plant has been in disarray ever since an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11.

Radiation started leaking from reactors and people were urged to leave the surrounding area - sparking worldwide concern.

The letter from Mr Smith reads: “Understandably, many of you who attend our meetings will be concerned about the recent serious nuclear incident at the Japanese Fukushima Power Plant. The SSG will pay close attention to how the situation there develops and you are assured of my fullest commitment, as chairman, in challenging local operators on the adequacy of their own arrangements for dealing with significant events here, should they occur.

“To this end I am keen the SSG hosts a special public meeting dedicated to reviewing the lessons of Fukushima so that members and non-members alike may seek answers to their questions and concerns from local nuclear site licenses and from government.

“The government-commissioned review being complied by Mike Weightman, chief inspector at the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), is due to be finalised in September. I believe the SSG must hold a special public meeting as soon as possible thereafter.

“In the meantime the group’s AGM in June will continue to be planned but I wish to avoid direct questions or detailed remarks about the situation in Japan until the public meeting. I will ensure that members are informed of the provisional conclusions of the Weightman report which is due out sometime in late May.”

The SSG is made up of parish, town, district and county councillors along with local residents, community representatives and co-opted members.

Its role is to inform the public of activities on the Sizewell A and B sites and to act as an open forum for community concerns.

Commenting yesterday Mr Smith assured the situation in Japan would not be ignored and fully discussed when all the facts were available.

“The AGM in June is an evening meeting,” he said. “We normally have trouble finishing within three hours so I wanted to prevent it from going on until very late.

“Of course I realise the seriousness of the situation in Japan but none of us know the whole picture. The complete report will be out in September and I hope to be able to get someone down from the ONR to brief us so we can have a fully informed meeting on the subject.”

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