UN asks UK to suspend work on Hinkley Point

Adam Vaughan
The UN move is unlikely to halt the earthworks and building of a jetty at Hinkley. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A United Nations committee has asked the UK to suspend work on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset because of the government’s failure to consult with European countries over the project.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said last year that the UK had failed to meet its obligations to discuss the possible impact of an incident at Hinkley on neighbouring countries.

The UNECE has now gone a step further and said the UK should consider refraining from further works on the site of the new reactors.

The body said the government should wait until it has heard back from countries including Germany, Norway and the Netherlands on whether it would be helpful for them to be formally notified under a treaty on transboundary environmental impacts.

The UN request is an embarrassment for the government, which has faced several delays over the UK’s first atomic power station for a generation. But it is unlikely to derail the earthworks and building of a jetty at Hinkley, which is Europe’s biggest construction site.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Opposition to Hinkley started with knowledgeable energy specialists and environmentalists. It grew to involve a wide array of businesses and media commentators. Now it includes neighbouring countries and a UN body. This letter from a UN body shows the UK still has a mindset of doing what we like without listening to the widespread concerns.”

A spokesman for EDF, the French state-owned company building Hinkley, said: “We have carried out all the environmental impact assessments (EIA) required for Hinkley Point C, including assessing any likely significant transboundary impacts. In considering the EIA the UK Planning Inspectorate concluded there was no likelihood of significant transboundary effects.

“The UK Supreme Court has already rejected a challenge from An Taisce which claimed that the government should have consulted other member states before making its decision on the development.”

The UK government has yet to respond.

Hinkley is just one of a fleet of new nuclear power stations that the government hopes will be built over the next 15 years, to keep the lights on and cut carbon emissions.

But a cloud has been cast over one of the biggest projects, at Moorside in Cumbria, because one of its key backers, Toshiba, has suffered financial problems and promised to review future overseas nuclear projects as a result.

Although the UN reprimanded the government for its failures to follow protocol on Hinkley, it welcomed commitments it had received from the UK to notify nearby countries for other future new build nuclear plants.

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