Call to disclose Sizewell N-plant data
09:41 02 November 2012
OPPONENTS of Sizewell C claim that vital technical information on the proposed nuclear reactors is being withheld by the UK safety watchdog on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.
John Large, an independent, London-based consulting engineer, has filed a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) seeking reports about the design of the twin reactors which will be at the heart of the new power station.
However, he claims his efforts to check the safety of the design are being thwarted.
Mr Large, who is being funded by a charitable trust to scrutinise the reactor design, said: “I’ve been working on this for the past year and a half, but it is proving very difficult to obtain the data I need, because ONR has contracted out much of the assessment work to firms which also work within the nuclear industry and put confidentiality clauses on their reports.
“This kind of scrutiny cannot be left to the ONR alone because, in my opinion, it does not have the resources to do a thorough job.”
Pete Wilkinson, former director of Greenpeace UK and now a Suffolk-based environment consultant and member of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, said independent analysis of the design of the new reactors was vital to ensure the safety of those living near the nuclear site.
“The amount of obfuscation, mainly for commercial confidentiality reasons, is almost laughable and renders the task of interpreting the data almost impossible.
“It also leaves a question mark over the ONR’s so-called openness and transparency policy,” he said.
A spokesman for ONR said: “We are committed to openness and transparency, and publish many hundreds of reports every year on our website – www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear – explaining our regulatory work and decisions.”
ONR had published more than 200 reports relating to the generic design assessment of new nuclear reactors, such as those proposed for Sizewell, including guidance, technical and audit reports.
“Sometimes we are given information from third parties – such as nuclear reactor operators and designers – that assists us in our inspections and assessments, but which contains information that, in opinion of the company, is commercially sensitive, the spokesman said.
He added: “We are legally required, under Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations legislation, to consider the public interest in the disclosure of such information – and sometimes that means we would not release it. We are a public body charged with upholding the law.”