Court hears of safety concerns over airport

power station 1
power station 1

LAWYERS outlined their fears over the danger of what could happen in the event of a passenger plane crash in close proximity to Dungeness nuclear power station.

The Lydd Airport Action Group says the airport is the only airport in the country within 5km of a nuclear power station, and that the currently operational Dungeness B and Dungeness A, potentially at risk in the event of an aircraft crash.

The action group is asking one of the country’s top judges, Mr Justice Duncan Ousley, to quash the grant of planning permission for an extended runway and new terminal buildings, a decision taken by the Secretaries of State for Communities and Transport.

Opening its case for the protestors, in the wake of two days of legal argument from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who also oppose the plan, Matthew Horton QC told the judge: “Dungeness A and B were not constructed to withstand the impact of an aircraft above a certain weight.

“If such an aircraft were to crash on Dungeness B, it was agreed at the inquiry that it could cause a nuclear accident of the most serious kind, known as a Target 9 accident.

“Such an accident is defined as one which risks causing 100 or more fatalities, either immediate or eventual, from an on-site accident that results in exposure to ionising radiation. Target 9 is also referred to as the ‘societal risk target’.”

But he said that a Target 9 accident could result in 100 immediate or eventual deaths, or thousands or even more.

As a result of Fukushima, the European Commission stated that the event in Japan “demonstrated that nuclear reactors must be protected even against accidents which have been assessed as highly improbable”.

He claimed that the inquiry into the airport expansion was conducted by an inspector with no expertise in relation to nuclear safety, and the Office for Nuclear Regulation was wrongly not required to attend the inquiry.

He claimed the current airport use is primarily for light aircraft of less than 5,700kg, which accounted for 99% of the 22,000 aircraft movements in 2009. He claimed the development would increase the largest aircraft movements from one every three days, in 2009, to around 18 a day.

He argued that the Secretaries of State failed to give intelligible, proper and adequate reasons for finding that the proposals were not objectionable on grounds of nuclear safety.

Justice Ousley is to reserve his decision the case and give a written judgment later this year.