Bid to block nuclear plan dismissed
Published 20/12/2013 | 16:16
A bid to quash a decision giving permission for a new nuclear power station on the west coast of England facing Ireland has failed.
An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland - brought a challenge over the legality of the decision in March by the UK's secretary of state for energy and climate change to grant development consent for the project at Hinkley Point in Somerset - around 150 miles from Ireland.
Its lawyers told Mrs Justice Patterson at London's High Court that there was a failure to undertake "transboundary consultation" with the Irish people beforehand as required by the European Commission's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
The UK government says that such consultation was not necessary as it had already dealt with the potentially very severe impact which nuclear accidents - although agreed to be unlikely - could have, were they to happen.
That screening decision process, in April 2012, took into account matters such as the technical information in the environmental statement, prior assessment of the likelihood of accidents and the role of the Office of Nuclear Regulation in licensing.
Transboundary consultation was only required in relation to significant environmental effects of which there was a "real risk" or a "serious possibility", it argued, and not those in relation to which there was only a bare possibility.
Dismissing the case, the judge rejected An Taisce's argument that the secretary of state misdirected himself as to the meaning of the relevant regulations in considering only impacts arising from the ordinary regulated operation of the nuclear power station and not "unlikely", but nevertheless possible, impacts from other scenarios.
She also rejected its claim that there was a failure to comply with the regulations by omitting to take into account the possible impacts arising from unplanned or accidental effects of the development.
She said that opinions from a variety of expert sources provided a sound and reasoned rational basis for the secretary of state to come to his decision and he had sufficient information to amount to a comprehensive assessment for the purposes of the directive.