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Protesters march against new nuclear power station

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 08, 2012

Protesters marched through the streets of Bridgwater to oppose plans for Hinkley Point. PIicture: Andrew Hobbs

Protesters marched through the streets of Bridgwater to oppose plans for Hinkley Point. PIicture: Andrew Hobbs

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A specialist engineer who worked at Hinkley Point nuclear power station for almost 30 years has attacked the nuclear industry's approach to safety and predicted that a Fukushima-type disaster in the UK was 'almost inevitable'.

Peter Smith's comments were made at a weekend rally in Bridgwater against the proposed new Hinkley C nuclear power station.

French company EDF Energy, which runs the Hinkley B plant and has applied for planning permission for the new twin-reactor station strongly rebuts Mr Smith's claims.

Today anti-nuclear campaigners plan to scale the fence surrounding the Hinkley C site and plant seeds to symbolise their fight to stop development.

Mr Smith, who was head of the 'electrical instrumentation section' at Hinkley, said: "Over the years, I became more and more aware of the dangers and dark side of nuclear power. The industry denies that it ever puts profit before safety but this is a lie. I have seen corner-cutting from the design stage onwards.

"At Hinkley, major safety systems were omitted and others only implemented after major incidents.

"The nuclear industry suffers from the delusion that nuclear power is safe. They said that after Three Mile Island, they said it after Chernobyl and they said it after Fukushima. Do we really want Hinkley Point to be the next major disaster?"

He said that the likelihood of a major accident in the UK is increasing because "experts like me who knew the systems inside out... are now retiring or moving to other sectors".

He said old reactors are being pushed to perform beyond their intended lifespan, "creating a recipe for disaster."

Peter Higginson, technical and safety support manager at Hinkley Point B, said: "As even Peter Smith himself acknowledges, in his own words, 'there was never a major incident at Hinkley'.

"More than that, the reality is that we guard against even the most minor of incidents. We have an open reporting culture, continuous investment in people and plant, robust design and procedures that all support our strong safety culture.

"People can be reassured that the independent regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, has the power to shut down any power station that does not meet safety standards."

Hundreds of people from all over Britain attended the rally, which included a one-minute silence in tribute to local Stop Hinkley campaigner Crispin Aubrey, who had planned to speak, but died earlier this month.

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