Tom Bawden in the Independent tells us that Dungeness nuclear power plant was closed for 5 months because of “fears of a Fukushima style flood disaster.”
This story, which the Independent calls exclusive, appears to have its origins at the environmental news website Click Green. Reading between the lines the story has probably been fed to journalists by someone at Friends of the Earth. Naturally you would expect journalists to bother checking what anti-nuclear campaigners tell them, but perhaps I am too much of an optimist.
It is however incredibly easy to check how long a nuclear power plant is shut for. In fact you can find out with little difficulty how much electricity they generate every hour of the year. So, instead of being closed for five months, this is what happened. Dungeness is a two reactor affair. One reactor was shut down for refuelling on May 20th 2013, while the other was shut down for some flood related safety upgrades on May 20th 2013.
The Guardian’s Terry McAllister also informs us ‘that five months earlier, EDF had privately admitted to the industry’s watchdog, the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR), that the shingle bank between the reactors and the sea was “not as robust as previously thought”‘. Again, it should have been that difficult for a journalist to read through the ONR website to know that these supposedly “private” conversations were in fact public record. And it should be asked why Mr. McAllister went to the effort of quoting two people from Greenpeace, but did not asking for the views of either EDF or the ONR. Is this journalism?
So, here we have a trumped safety scare. The reasons for this are easy to guess. EDF plans to extend the life of Dungeness by 10 years, and obviously anti-nuclear greens want to stop this. Greenpeace have recently started a campaign to close old nuclear power plants immediately, instead of using them to ensure we burn less coal. That journalists are so easily co-opted by this anti-nuclear activism tells you something about the state of environmental journalism.
(If you are curious where I got the facts to back this article up, it was almost entirely from the comments section below the Guardian article referenced. When the comments section of a news article are more informative than the article itself you know you are in trouble.)