NIS press release on AWE laser facility

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Aldermaston New Build

West Berkshire Council has received the MOD's re-submission of a Notice of Planning for its proposed new laser facility at AWE Aldermaston. This is the first phase of a Strategy Development to enable tests to be carried out on nuclear weapons without recourse to underground testing.

The Nuclear Information Service is calling for a more thorough examination of the plans than can be achieved in the 21 days set by the Council for consultation; consulted bodies were given to 7th May to respond, and the public until 19 May, although these limits have been extended to 5th June.

"Given that this is a government project and not a normal Planning Application, Cabinet guidelines of 12 weeks minimum for consultation should be followed. A multi-million pound project involving nuclear weapons cannot be rushed through a planning sub-committee sitting in Thatcham. However diligent, councillors are not likely to be able to make a proper decision unless their officers take time to get the best advice and present an informed report. Our legal and scientific advice is that the time for consultation is wholly inadequate yet WBDC Planning Officer, Gary Lugg refuses to budge on this."

Di McDonald Nuclear Information Service

Details such as the length of the pulses from the 10 long-pulse beams, the length of the pulses from the two short-pulse beams and the power of each of the 12 beams are considered necessary in order to judge whether a site near a main road is appropriate. "How can you comment on an environmental assessment of what if it doesn't tell you anything at all about the laser? I believe that the MoD are in breach of their legal commitment to undertake an environmental assessment of this new project because of a fundamental failure to describe the proposed development. This prevents members of the public commenting, which is an inherent aspect of Environmental Assessment."

Professor Frank Barnaby Consultant Physicist

Contacts:
Evelyn Parker: 01635 253231
Jamie Woolley, Solicitor: 0114 220 4452
Frank Barnaby: 01264 860423

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Legal Notes for Editors
1. The MoD has promised to act as if the Environmental Assessment Directive applied to all new projects. As the project is for mixed military and civilian use, it may well be covered by the Directive in any event.
2. Article 6 of the Directive 85/337 guarantees that the environmental statement is
- made available to the public within a reasonable time, in order to give the public concerned
the opportunity to express an opinion before the development consent is granted(Art 6(2)) and
that
- the Member State must determine the detailed arrangements for consultation and depending on the characteristics of the project, fix appropriate time limits for the various stages of the procedure&
3.The published notices invite comments within 21 days on the application. here. It is self-evident that providing a mere 21 days to study and respond to this application and the accompanying environmental assessment
- is not a "reasonable time"
- does not provide a meaningful "opportunity"
- has not taken account of the "characteristics of the project" - and is not "appropriate".
4. A proper length of time would be one consistent with the Cabinet Code on Written Consultation. The Code of practice on written consultation applies to consultation documents issued after 1 April 2004. It states Though the (provisions of the Code) have no legal force, and cannot prevail over statutory or other mandatory external requirements (eg under European Community law), they should otherwise generally be regarded as binding on UK departments and their agencies, unless Ministers conclude that exceptional circumstances require a departure.
5. Criterion 5 in the Code provides that Sufficient time should be allowed for considered responses from all groups with an interest. Twelve weeks should be the standard minimum period for a consultation.
6. Article 5.1 of the E.A. Directive requires, amongst other things that the environmental
statement include:
"1. Description of the project, including in particular:
- a description of the physical characteristics of the whole project and the land-use requirements during the construction and operational phases,
- a description of the main characteristics of the production processes, for instance, nature and quantity of the materials used,
- an estimate, by type and quantity, of expected residues and emissions (water, air and soil pollution, noise, vibration, light, heat, radiation, etc.) resulting from the operation of the proposed project
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Science Notes
An Environmental Assessment ought to give the following information:
- Precise details of the neodymium-doped laser
- What is the length of the pulses from the 10 long-pulse beams?
- What is the length of the pulses from the two short-pulse beams?
- What is the power of each of the 12 beams?
- How does the total power output of Orion compare with that of Helen?
- What are the details of the geometry of the laser system?
- What are the structural details of the chambers in which experiments will be carried out?
- What amounts of fissile material will be involved in experiments?
- What are the precise purposes of the short pulse beams?
- Details of the structure of the building housing the laser system showing the position of the lasers and the paths of the 12 laser beams."

ENDS

Read pdf version here: Attachment: nis_laser_prmay04.pdf.