Sizewell: Fuel store plans not affected by Japan disaster

POWER station bosses stressed the need to push ahead with plans for a dry nuclear fuel store at Sizewell in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, newly-released documents have revealed.

EDF Energy was asked by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) how its plans for the development would be affected by the fall-out of the Japanese earthquake tsumani in March, which saw caused severe damage to a nuclear plant and radiation releases.

In documents released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, EDF said the events had “reinforced its commitment” to proceed with the project, which it said was “critically important” to keeping the Sizewell B reactor working past 2015.

It said it feared that a delay in the Goverment granting approval for the project of two to three months “would start to put this timescale at risk”.

Spent fuel from Sizewell B is currently stored in a fuel storage pond which will provide capacity until 2015. The new store, if approved, will provide capacity from 2015.

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EDF also suggested that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne consulted Dr Mike Weightman, the Chief Inspector of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, before making a decision, saying it would be “prudent” in light of any judicial review against the development. A decision on the fuel store is expected shortly.

The documents released, including letters and internal emails, show that Government officials conferred with the nuclear industry over how to deal with the public relations fall-out from the earthquake crisis.

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One DECC official warned that the disaster threatened to “set the nuclear industry back globally” and said it was vital not to let anti-nuclear campaigners use it to gain a publicity coup.

Suffolk-based environmental consultant Pete Wilkinson called the communications “scandalous” and the criticised the fact that much of the correspondence, including emails which dealt with questions that Mr Huhne had asked about nuclear safety, had been blacked out, or redacted.

“We have come to expect this from the Government over the years. It shows the sleight of hand and the obfuscation that has been used since 2003 since the new nuclear programme was first put forward,” he said.

A spokesman for EDF said: “As would be expected of the UK’s leading nuclear generator, we were asked and were pleased to provide our expertise to the Government and others to help them understand the situation and its implications for UK plants.”

A Government spokesman said: “Given the unprecedented events unfolding in Japan it was appropriate to share information with key stakeholders, particularly those involved in operating nuclear sites.”

The spokesman added that information was redacted if it was not considered relevant to the FOI request.

Eight locations were named by ministers last week for future nuclear development, including Sizewell and at Bradwell in Essex.

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