On Friday 12/10/2018, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) communicated its final findings to the parties involved in the complaint launched by Greenpeace in 2014 on the design lifetime extension of the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant. The findings will be submitted for confirmation to the 7th session of the Meeting of Parties in 2021.This decision represents a major step in the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Nuclear.
Find here the full analysis by Jan Haverkamp, vice-chair of Nuclear Transparency Watch, nuclear energy and energy policy expert for Greenpeace, who filed the complaint for Greenpeace Netherlands.
The findings in short:
The ACCC came to the conclusion that the Netherlands are in non-compliance with the Convention because they did not carry out proper public participation as obliged under art. 6(10) of the Convention. (point 82)
The ACCC concluded: “The Committee considers that the permitted duration of an activity is clearly an operating condition for that activity, and an important one at that. Accordingly, any change to the permitted duration of an activity, be it a reduction or an extension, is a reconsideration or update of that activity’s operating conditions. It follows that any decision permitting the NPP to operate beyond 2014 amounted to an update of the operating conditions.” (point 65)
The ACCC “considers it inconceivable that the operation of a nuclear power plant could be extended from 40 years to 60 years without the potential for significant environmental effects. The Committee accordingly concludes that it was “appropriate”, and thus required, to apply the provisions of article 6, paragraphs 2-9, to the 2013 decision amending the licence for the Borssele NPP to extend its design lifetime until 2033.” (point 71)This means that it can no longer be argued that nuclear life-time extensions or Long Term Operation has no environmental effects.
The Dutch government could not have made the covenant with the operator in 2006, that included the obligation for compensation payments in case of closure earlier than 2033, without previously having carried out public participation concerning environmental issues. That earlier closure is still possible because of nuclear safety is not sufficient. (point 76 – 78)
The authorities “must as a minimum provide the public concerned with access to the information listed in subparagraphs (a)-(f) of [art. 6(6)].” The authorities should have made “information on the environmental effects of such longer operation […] available to the public concerned.” An attachment submitted to parliament in 2006 does not amount to access to all available information for a procedure carried out in 2012-2013, i.e. more than six years later. (point 85)
The Netherlands must “take the necessary legislative, regulatory and administrative measures to ensure that, when a public authority reconsiders or updates the duration of any nuclear-related activity within the scope of article 6 of the Convention, the provisions of paragraph 2 to 9 of article 6 will be applied.” (Recommendations, point 89) This means that for every coming decision, this decision needs to be informed by public participation that concerns also the environmental impacts of longer operation of the NPP.