The Impact of Nuclear Power on Essex with Natalie Bennett and Professor Andy Blowers 8th December

15 November 2016

The Impact of Nuclear Power on Essex with Natalie Bennett and Professor Andy Blowers


DATE: THURSDAY 8th December 2016

TIME : 7.30pm


LOCATION : FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE, 82 Rainsford Road, Chelmsford, CM1 2QL


Natalie Bennett Meeting 8 Dec


We have a film of the lecture that was given on our Facebook page:


Notes of Public Meeting 8th December 2016


Andy Blowers:     professor with OU; author of The Legacy of Nuclear Power (Routledge)

Natalie Bennett: former leader of Green Party; prospective candidate for Sheffield Central


Andy Blowers

Only the Green Party and SNP are consistently anti-nuclear.

The evening’s input was to emphasise that there was no need for a nuclear option, no need for Bradwell and that our intended legacy should very carefully considered.

Publication: The Legacy of Nuclear Power (Routledge, 2016)

Development of nuclear energy began in the UK post 1945 with the creation of British nuclear weapons.

Construction of Bradwell began in 1957, before nuclear development in the rest of Europe.

Nuclear accidents occurred during 1970/80’s, with Chernobyl the most significant in 1986. Nuclear energy development was then in retreat.

The focus was then on how waste could be dealt with, an issue that united the anti- and pro-nuclear camps.

Bradwell closed in 2002, but submarines with the Trident nuclear weapon system began patrolling  at the end of 1994.

Arguments against the development of nuclear power include:

  • Dependency on foreign investment
  • Possibility of terrorism/cyber attacks
  • Escalating costs
  • Length of time to build: during the long construction period, renewable sources might accommodate much of the demand
  • The need to run a new power station for 40-60 years to achieve financial viability
  • Although nuclear is a low carbon provision, the management of nuclear waste is a major problem



Bradwell is one of 8 sites being considered. If selected, the estimate for opening is currently 2025. Although those used to having nuclear power provision nearby are sometimes seen as potentially nuclear friendly communities, one survey revealed that 80% of those living in the vicinity of Bradwell were opposed to its re-opening.

Cooling is a problem given the shallow estuary and although some UK jobs would be available during construction, once in operation these would depend on the UK/Chinese relationship.

In considering our legacy:

  • Waste disposal of past and present nuclear provision is still not resolved, quite apart from any additional requirements
  • Sea levels are rising, adding to the risk of accidents
  • Nuclear is expensive, dangerous and immoral


Natalie Bennett

Reasons UK commits to nuclear:

  • Weak democracy: government voted in by 24% of electorate; unelected House of Lords; little local control (note cuts to local services); therefore hard to resist
  • Making sure that the anti-nuclear lobbying which was so effective in Germany doesn’t happen here; suspicion of nationalisation, except when it comes to other countries, such as France or China, making major investments here

Problems with nuclear:

  • Waste: Cumbria reversed decision to accept deep depositories and nowhere else is in the offing; potential problems for future generations
  • Human error
  • Cost of construction
  • Time: Hinkley could be ready by 2025, but fossil fuel use and emissions need to be significantly reduced now; renewables are relatively swift to build and cost effective
  • Jobs: renewables incorporate more jobs than nuclear for equivalent financial outlay
  • Wind and sun are variable, but this can be addressed through effective storage and programming devices to switch off during low input times as part of a smart grid
  • Cost of dealing with current waste: £83bn and rising

Principles to underpin ways forward:

“Transparency is the best answer to post-truth politics.”

“Politics is something you should do, not be done to.”


Question & Answer Session: Points Arising:

Proximity to potential threats often remain unrecognised. Eg Bradwell is close to Southend as the crow flies, while many might just consider the road route which is much longer. While Bradwell is not producing power, there is still potential danger from fuel rods and the waste that is being dumped there.

Periods of austerity can increase stress and reduce people’s headspace to look beyond their own daily needs to focus on issues such as renewable energy.

Costs: tidal sources of energy (eg Swansea Bay) are expensive initially but will be cheaper as economies of scale take over, and Hinkley cost of electricity is anticipated to be twice the current level, with no upper limit established. Whereas the costs of renewable energy reduce over time, those of nuclear increase over time.

Radiation: “an accident anywhere is an accident everywhere”; nuclear provision is fallible: accidents happen; to date there has been a major accident at least once every for each generation; locally, oysters undergo a rigorous treatment process to ensure they are safe.

“Nuclear is an avoidable risk, so let’s avoid it!”

A question was how to get listened to. After 35-40 years of a social democratic consensus, the Brexit and Trump votes suggest a desire to take back control: a reminder of the observation, “The Emperor has no clothes….”

Work following the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan is ongoing. It resulted in 170,00 evacuees and current cost estimates are $200 trillion. Human error can never be ruled out.

Bradwell would depend on Chinese money whereas renewables can be created using local jobs and investment.

Multinationals can be seen as responsible for the commitment to nuclear rather than viewing the issue as the fault of specific countries.

Rallying opposition, such as that for fracking:

  • Political action vital, even though the effects are rarely immediately obvious
  • Parties are prepared for a possible General Election: March > May 2017
  • 138 countries of the UN are willing to support the banning of nuclear, though this does not include many who currently utilise it


The meeting, with approximately 65 attending, began at 19.30 and closed at 22.00.

Petitions were available in relation to the need for iodine tablets, the need for ECC to exercise its duty of care, the stopping and checking of discharges into the River Blackwater and support for Blackwater against New Nuclear Group. All petitions attracted 40 – 50 signatories and voluntary contributions to cover expenses and support the work of the local party totalled £160.