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Nuclear Power: Who Cares?

From Planet 215

James Stewart contrasts the strength of the 1980s Welsh campaign against a new nuclear power station just 15 miles from Barry with the apathy today towards the revival of the plans.

Twenty-five years ago, plans for a new nuclear power station just twenty miles from Cardiff provoked strong opposition. More than 3,000 people from Wales objected to the proposal for a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) at Hinkley Point, just across the Bristol Channel on the Somerset coast. It was already the site of two older nuclear stations, but – in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 – this was seen as the place to draw a line. There had already been a long inquiry into plans for the first PWR, at Sizewell in Suffolk, but defeat for the anti-nuclear campaign there did not deter people from expressing their opposition to Hinkley Point ‘C’. There were 22,000 objections and the number from Wales (around 3,000) was so great that the Hinkley Inquiry had to hold five days of hearings in Cardiff.

A quarter of a century later, Hinkley Point is, again, the front line in the conflict over nuclear power. Though the inspector ruled in favour in 1990, the PWR was never built because of the costs. Last year, under new planning rules, the French company EDF was given permission to build a new station and the British Government has now offered a guaranteed price for the electricity it would generate. The company is still weighing up the economics and the European Commission is investigating the deal. But unlike the 1980s, the prospect of a twin-unit European Pressurised Reactor just 15 miles from Barry has provoked almost no response in south Wales…



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