Nuclear plant approved
Published: 19 Mar 2013
Energy Secretary Ed Davey has announced that planning consent has been granted to energy firm EDF to construct a new £14 billion nuclear power plant in Somerset. This is the first of a planned new generation of nuclear plants in the UK.
The new Hinkley Point C plant will be capable of powering five million homes and, Mr Davey claims, will help meet the Government's energy and policy objectives.
He said, "The planning decision to give consent to Hinkley Point C follows a rigorous examination from the Planning Inspectorate, and detailed analysis within my department." The application was, according to the chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate, the largest application to be handled by them under the Planning Act 2008. Mr Davey added, "This planned project adds to a number of new energy projects consented since May 2010, including wind farms and biomass and gas-fired power stations."
The construction of the plant will provide construction jobs and jobs will be eventually created in the power station itself.
However, Greenpeace's executive director, John Sauven, expressed several concerns before the proposal had even been granted consent. "It will lock a generation of consumers into higher energy bills, via a strike price that's expected to be double the current price of electricity, and it will distort energy policy by displacing newer, cleaner, cheaper technologies. With companies now saying the price of offshore wind will drop so much it will be on par with nuclear by 2020, there is no rationale for allowing Hinkley Point C to proceed."
He continued, "Giving it the green light when there is no credible plan for dealing with the waste could also be in breach of the law."
Weather to delay Farne Islands rescue
Published: 18 Mar 2013
An attempt to rescue a cargo ship which ran aground off the Northumberland coast on Saturday could be postponed because of weather conditions.
The 262ft vessel is currently caught on rocks on the Farne Islands, about three miles from the mainland. Efforts to float the Diano, which is carrying timber, were expected to begin after high tide on 18 March. However, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have stated that due to worsening weather conditions and tide patterns, the ship could remain stranded for two weeks.
Hugh Shaw, who is overseeing the operation, said specialist equipment was being brought in from around the UK. "It's in everyone's interest to get this done as quickly as we can but we need to make sure we have all the resources we need, rather than rush into it."
The Farne Islands are possibly the most exciting seabird colony in England with unrivalled views of 23 species, including around 37,000 pairs of puffin. It is also home to a large grey seal colony, with more than 1,000 pups born every autumn. However, concerns of environmental damage caused by oil spillages have been eased as no leaks have been reported.
Pesticides ban delay
Published: 18 Mar 2013
A ban on bee-killing pesticides has been postponed, as Member State experts failed to agree on a binding decision to end their use.
In January, the European†Commission proposed to ban three neonicotinoids found to affect the health of Europe's dwindling bee population. This followed a report by the EU's food watchdog - the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) - which identified a number of risks posed to bees by the insecticides.
Most Member States voted in favour of the ban, but the qualified majority threshold needed to make it binding was not met. Five Member States abstained, including the UK, Germany and Bulgaria, while nine countries, including Romania, Hungary and Finland, voted against the ban. The Brussels executive can now either refer a revised proposal back to a formal committee for review or send the original text to an appeals committee within two months.
If there is no qualified majority in the appeals committee, the Commission can itself adopt a regulation. The appeal vote would still need a qualified majority but this time against the proposal. If it fails to reach that, the proposal will be implemented and Member States cannot challenge it.
However, pro-environment advocates say big industry will attempt to water down the proposal. "The scientific evidence is clear, but pesticides companies like Syngenta and Bayer will continue to lobby to delay a ban as much as possible," said Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero. Meanwhile, a number of Member States, including Germany, say they favour the ban but with conditions. This could include exemptions on the basis that the neonicotinoids kill the bees only when mixed with airborne particles of dust.
HSE announce online health surveillance guidance
Published: 18 Mar 2013
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new guidelines on health surveillance, which is needed where, even after all precautions are taken, there is still a risk that workers may be exposed to chemicals or other hazardous substances.
It has been developed with industry and aims to make it easier for employers to decide whether their workers need health surveillance, how to go about it and how to use the results. It also identifies when action is not needed, saving lower-risk businesses, such as those that are office-based, from wasting time and money.
Waste export controls to change
Published: 18 Mar 2013
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a consultation on changes to the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations SI 2007/1711, which will see enforcement and control of waste exports improved. This is Defra's latest move to try and crack down on waste crime.
The proposed amendments will:
- allow Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to disclose relevant export data to competent authorities in the UK in order to help them to develop better intelligence on illegal waste exports;
- clarify the role of the competent authorities for the transit of waste and the marine area - currently the Secretary of State fulfils this role as a short term measure;
- allow the Border Force to stop and detain suspect containers;
- change the fees payable for the import and export of waste into and from Northern Ireland.
Those who wish to comment on the proposed amendments can do so until 10 May 2013.
For more information, see the:
Decision goes pear shaped for Islington council
Published: 15 Mar 2013
Labour-run Islington Council in North London has been heavily criticised for chopping down a £10,000 pear tree, because one local complained he was allergic to wasp stings.
Council workers cut down the 30ft tree against the advice of experts on the grounds of health and safety, after a resident complained that it attracted the insects. Specialist tree officers said the 25-year old tree should not be removed unless it was diseased or dying, but councillors voted to get rid of it "just in case."
Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors attacked the decision, calling it a "chainsaw massacre." They argue that the council has ignored its own policy of preventing healthy trees being cut down and have set a "dangerous precedent."
However, Labour councillor Richard Greening defended the move, saying that they had received a report of wasps living in the tree - despite a council report finding that nobody had ever been stung by wasps living in the tree and that there was no evidence of a wasps nest in it.
He said, "The residents live there and if they say they have seen wasps there is no reason to doubt them. The risk is so high for people with allergies that on this occasion it was worth going against tree officers."