This is entry number 271, published on 31 August 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.
Today’s entry reports on the judicial review of the Nuclear Power National Policy Statement launched by Greenpeace.
One of the key features of the Planning Act regime for planning and authorising nationally significant infrastructure is the proposed series of National Policy Statements (NPSs), which set out government policy on the need for infrastructure, and the impacts that promoters should address in their applications and that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) should take into account when examining them.
The government finalised ('designated') the first NPSs - a suite of six dealing with various types of energy infrastructure - on 19 July. Under the Planning Act, this kicked off a six-week judicial review period, which therefore ends today, judicial review (JR) being the challenge of a decision by the state on legal grounds. The Act reduces the standard three-month (but promptly) period to six weeks.
It seems that Greenpeace lodged a claim for JR of one of the six NPSs - the Nuclear Power NPS (EN-6) - on Friday. The NPS identifies eight sites in England and Wales that the government considers are potentially suitable to host new nuclear power stations: Bradwell in Essex, Hartlepool on Teesside, Heysham in Lancashire, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in South Gloucestershire, Sellafield in Cumbria, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa on Anglesey.
According to their press release, the main ground for this is that the government failed to take properly into account the lessons from March's earthquake and tsunami on the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan. It is interesting that the grounds all appear to relate to this issue - does that mean that Greenpeace would have left the NPS alone if Fukushima hadn't happened? I have asked to see the statement of claim and will report further when I get more information.
The government did at least take some steps to take Fukushima into account - it commissioned Mike Weightman, Chief Inspector of the Nuclear Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive, to produce a report on the subject. He produced an interim report in mid May (reported here) which concluded that the government could carry on with its nuclear programme - or perhaps the alleged point is that 'concluded' is the wrong word for an interim report. He is to produce his final report next month. The government took its cue from the interim report and proceeded with the designation of the NPSs.
The press release states that their submission runs to 1611 pages - the two volumes (here and here) of the NPS itself are a mere 344 pages. If you are going to throw a spanner in the works, you may as well make it a big one.
The commencement of proceedings does not invalidate or suspend the NPS - that would only happen later if the proceedings were successful. Thus nuclear projects can carry on despite the JR, but with the risk of the NPS disappearing at a future date.