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Storm surges and rising sea levels threaten nuclear safety

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 16, 2012

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The Government should rethink nuclear policy at Hinkley point.

Isn't the growing threat of floods, cancer infant mortality and tsunami in the UK enough to stop the Hinkley power station proposal? A report prepared for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, considered that the risk of flooding at Hinkley Point in Somerset was currently 'low' but would rise to 'high' by 2080, with an impact of storm surge height of 0.8m predicted, and impact of sea level rise of 6m, the worst case scenario for the end of the century.

The Hinkley Point reactors overlook the Bristol Channel and are defended by a sea wall with additional defence structure behind it. The shoreline is subject to strong winds, powerful waves and storm surges: this means that the greatest current risk to the power station comes from inundation from extreme events.

Accelerated sea level rise and predicted increases in storm surges could have significant impacts on this shoreline. Higher sea levels would narrow the wide foreshore which currently diminishes wave energy, leading to both increased erosion and a threat of inundation at the power station site. Current storm events are already overtopping the sea wall. The 0.7--0.8m increase in the 50- years surge height predicted by 2080 under the high emission scenario may add significant additional stress to the power station's defence structures (a sea wall, backed by gabions) Siting a new nuclear plant to the east of the present stations would not be advisable or indeed feasible under current conditions, let alone with the predicted impacts of climate change.

The more elevated land to the west of the current site boundary is at present a relatively more resistant site. However, given that cliff line in this area is currently subject to erosion, and that the rate of erosion may increase over the lifespan and decommissioning period of a new power station, this site is also likely to become problematic in the long term and cannot be considered a practicable option. The risk associated with flooding, low level radiation, human and mechanical accidents make nuclear an expensive, unstable, uninsurable and potentially disastrous technology in other words, a really dodgy old dinosaur of technology.

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