Monday, 28 March 2011
Spooked by Japan, the German Chancellor searches for alternative energy sources.
Shocked by the apocalyptic images of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, surprised many by pulling the plug from seven outdated nuclear reactors but is now receiving even more surprising support from the unlikeliest of backers.
It's clear that the glowing love affair between the atomic industry and Ms Merkel's conservative CDU party is now a liability – too hot to handle – and the Germans are scared.
But the big energy companies, E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall, are fighting back and are already warning of dark ages for Germany: an energy shortage and exploding energy costs. They want to extend the lifespan of all 17 nuclear plants and get the old reactors back on the grid after the safety checks and the three-month moratorium set by Merkel.
But political support for the nuclear industry, which has received €100bn (£88bn) in government grants, is fading. Soon after the news of nuclear contamination and melting fuel rods in Japan, some 60,000 people demonstrated against the continued operation of the ageing Neckarwestheim plant, forming a 45km human chain from the plant to the city of Stuttgart.
The EU Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, a close Merkel ally, said that Europe needed to consider whether it could live without nuclear energy. His radical U-turn is a big surprise. In his time as CDU premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Oettinger was a stout defender of a "safe and clean" nuclear energy. Now he modestly comments on the incidents in Japan with: "We are all in the hands of God".
Merkel, the daughter of a protestant priest, also refers to some "higher forces" in order to combat the fierce attacks of her offended former friends. The hard-nosed nuclear lobby accuses her of sacrificing the atomic industry for selfish reasons, such as opinion polls and elections.
Only a couple of months ago, the powerful lobby suppressed a law that said all of Germany's nuclear power plants were to go off line by 2022 at the latest. This time, after Fukushima, Merkel is determined to remain an iron lady and to finish nuclear power once and for all. She needs new friends – new confederates.
The Chancellor formed a commission last week to discuss the ethics of nuclear energy. Among the members are clerics such as the Munich archbishop Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
The 17 nuclear plants used to deliver about 11 per cent of Germany's energy. This month, seven old reactors were shut down temporarily without causing any black outs.
Germany still exists.
Now the political future of Merkel is closely linked to her capacity to deliver sufficient renewable energy, which needs to double its 10 per cent share in order to replace nuclear energy.
At approximately 30 per cent, oil remains the main source of energy in Germany, followed by other fossils such as coal and gas. This means new CO2 emissions would be unacceptable. New research by the Heinrich Boell Fondation claims that it is possible to replace Germany's appetite for fossil and nuclear energy with wind, water, solar, biomass and other sustainable energy sources and that it could be achieved within the next 30 years. New hybrid sources – together with other future technologies which are able to store wind and solar – have already been backed by Merkel. Help is also coming from the Bavarians, who are famous for their strong beer, their muscles and their hands-on approach. Munich's mayor, Christian Ude, has ambitious plans.
He wants Munich to be the first city with over a million inhabitants to be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy by 2025. According to a documentary aired by the public broadcaster, ZDF, renewable energy is competitive and claimed that "Green" electric power in Munich is already less expensive than nuclear power or the energy mix offered by electricity utilities.
The Bavarian capital plans to invest €9bn in water power and other renewable energies. Munich is also investing in offshore windparks in the North Sea and in solar plants in Andalusia, Spain. Everybody contributes to making Munich a green city. Even the elephants in the local zoo are called on to donate their biomass.
Posted by Reg Illingworth at 03:54
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Posted by Reg Illingworth at 09:43
25 March 2011 Last updated at 16:49
An environmental campaigner has started a legal challenge to the government's plan for more nuclear reactors.
Rory Walker, 24, of Lancaster, believes the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne did not adequately consider health concerns when approving the expansion in 2010.
Eight potential UK sites, including Heysham in Lancashire, have been earmarked for new reactors.
The government said its decisions were "rightly and properly made". Mr Walker has applied for a judicial review.
The campaigner, who lives near the existing Heysham plant, wants to challenge the lawfulness of the secretary of state's decision making in deciding to approve the expansion.
"Surely this decision about the health detriment to communities should be done in the most open and democratic way possible, with all the scientific information available put on the table so we can have a debate," said Mr Walker.
"That's not what Chris Huhne has done here. Chris Huhne has cut the corners dangerously in order to facilitate and push through a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.
"That's not acceptable and that's why we are working towards challenging that."Claims rejected
Irwin Mitchell solicitors, acting for Mr Walker, claim Mr Huhne failed to properly follow the regulatory process under the European Euratom Directive, which lays down basic safety standards for the nuclear industry.
According to their legal papers for the judicial review, the energy minister failed to make proper estimates of health detriment on people living near nuclear facilities during the justification process.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has rejected the accusation.
A spokesperson said: "We are confident that the decisions were rightly and properly made.
"The safety of our nuclear power stations is the government's number one priority and the UK has one of the most rigorous and robust regulatory systems anywhere in the world.
"The government have asked the Chief Nuclear Inspector, Dr Mike Weightman, to produce a report on the implications of the unprecedented events in Japan and the lessons to be learned for the UK nuclear industry."
Mr Walker's application was lodged at the High Court last month and government lawyers have until the end of March to respond.
The coalition government last year endorsed plans for a new generation of privately-built nuclear plants to replace Britain's ageing reactors.
Ministers believe they need to be replaced by 2025 to ensure Britain is not over-dependent on foreign sources of energy and help meet carbon reduction targets.
Posted by Reg Illingworth at 09:37
Friday, 25 March 2011
LASTEST NEWS ON LEGAL CHALLENGE
00.01am Friday 25 March 2011
GOVERNMENT FACES HIGH COURT CHALLENGE ON NUCLEAR POWER PLANS
CALLS FOR LATEST NUCLEAR REGULATIONS TO BE QUASHED
A LANCASHIRE man who is opposed to Government plans to introduce up to 20 new nuclear reactors across the UK has launched a High Court legal challenge against the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
Rory Walker (24), who lives close to Heysham, where one or two new reactors may be built, believes that the Secretary of State has not met his obligations in law and, as a result, is putting the health of local residents at risk.
Rory, who is opposed to nuclear power, instructed law firm Irwin Mitchell to launch judicial review proceedings on 28 February 2011 to challenge the lawfulness of Secretary of State Chris Huhne’s decisions late last year that two new types of nuclear reactor were justified.
According to the Euratom Directive and UK Regulations, the Secretary of State must ensure that the health detriments from nuclear power stations are outweighed by their economic, social and other benefits before giving the go ahead to build new nuclear power stations.
This regulatory process is called ‘Justification’ and is the first of three stages designed to protect members of the public against the dangers of ionising radiation. It is followed later by ‘Optimisation’, which requires radiation exposures to be kept as low as reasonably achievable, and ‘Limitation’, which ensures exposures remain within legal limits.
Legal papers for the judicial review claim that the Secretary of State’s approach to Justification last year failed to make proper estimates of health detriment and failed fully to take into account scientific research findings showing increased leukaemia risks near nuclear facilities. The papers criticise the Government’s decision to allow health impacts to be revisited at later stages after construction commences and highlight that with estimated costs of up to £6bn each, it would be difficult for the Government not to proceed with operating these nuclear reactors once built.
Explaining his reason for launching legal proceedings, Rory Walker said: “My concern is the effect of radiation emissions on myself and my community and the potentially long-lasting impact of radiation on people like myself wanting to start a family. In order to deliver its policy of new nuclear builds, the Government suggests that justification can be carried out after building £6 billion power stations; this is unrealistic.
“Justification is the only stage at which health risks are fully analysed and compared with the benefits. The Government’s approach to justification does not appear to give the protection that the regulations were designed to provide.”
Andrew Lockley, Partner and Head of Public Law at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The fundamental purpose of the Euratom Directive is to make sure that a comprehensive and detailed assessment is made before new nuclear reactors are built. It does not permit an approach which appears generalised, generic and deferred. Justification requires that the health detriments should be considered and balanced against the economic, social or other benefits which may occur - but this doesn’t seem to have happened here”.
The judicial review seeks a declaration that the Secretary of State’s decisions were unlawful. It also asks that the Justification Decision Regulations 2010, which were agreed for the two new types of reactor (EPR and AP1000) on 29 November 2010, be quashed.
In a scientific report prepared for the court, Dr. Ian Fairlie, a consultant on radioactivity in the environment, said: “There have been numerous epidemiological studies into the increased incidences of cancer near nuclear power stations. In fact, if the risks found following the KiKK study, a report commissioned by the German Government, were applied to Heysham, infants and young children under five living within 5km would be exposed to increased risks of cancer, especially leukaemia.”
Heysham in Lancashire is one of seven sites that the Government identified for future reactors. Other sites are Bradwell in Essex, Sellafield in Cumbria, Hartlepool, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in North Wales.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Interview requests should be directed to David Shirt. Contact details below:
Q1. When was the Judicial Review launched?
The Application was lodged with the High Court on February 28 2011.
Q2. Why have you issued the press release now?
Because we needed to serve the proceedings on Government solicitors for DECC, and as a matter of courtesy, to allow time for the contents to be considered.
Q3. Is the application opposed to nuclear power?
This application for Judicial Review is not about opposing nuclear power but about how the Secretary of State failed to carry out his legal duty to ‘justify’ the proposed new reactors by weighing the health detriments of radiation emissions and discharges from nuclear plants against economic and social benefits. The Government is required to do this under UK Regulations which in turn follow the Euratom Directive.
Q4. What would happen if you won?
The Court could either issue a Declaration or a quashing Order, or both. If we won, the Government would need to reconsider its Justification decisions and conduct a full assessment of whether the economic and social benefits outweigh the potential health detriments. In light of recent events in Japan, it is certainly possible that the Secretary of State would reach a different decision.
Q5. What would be the practical effect if you won? Would the Government have to stop its nuclear plans? For instance, would EdF have to stop its ground-clearing operations at Hinkley Point in Somerset?
The 2004 Regulations state that it is unlawful to introduce a new “practice” without it being justified in advance. Therefore if there were a judicial verdict against the Government’s Justification Decisions, then, legally speaking, it would be unlawful to continue to proceed. In particular, the Government would not be allowed to issue licences under s. 36 of the Electricity Act 1999.
Q6. Parliament has already passed Regulations bringing the Justification Decisions into legal effect. Can the courts overturn a Parliamentary vote?
If the Justification Decisions were held to be flawed in law, then the Parliamentary votes based on them would also be flawed and therefore invalid.
Q7. What are the next steps?
The Government needs to respond by the end of the month. The papers will then go to a judge, who may order an early hearing.
Q8. Where would any hearing be held?
Probably in London.
David Shirt, PR Manager
Tel: 0161 838 3094
Mob: 07720 509912
Irwin Mitchell was established over 95 years ago and is one of the country’s largest law firms in the UK. The practice employs more than 2,100 staff and has over 100 partners across offices in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol and Glasgow. The firm also has two offices in Spain.
The firm offers a comprehensive range of legal services in the areas of commercial litigation, corporate and real estate law for organisations including medium-sized enterprises and large public listed companies.
Irwin Mitchell also operates a number of leading and nationally recognised teams specialising in employment, insolvency and regulatory law.
The firm was ranked in the Top 50 litigators in the world by The Lawyer magazine and in 2010 was named as one of the leading companies in the country for commitment to local communities in the prestigious Business in the Community’s (BITC) annual Corporate Responsibility Index.
For more informa
Posted by Reg Illingworth at 01:44