A Select Committee meeting in the House of Commons was disrupted this morning by a small group of anti-nuclear activists. The incident took place during a packed session of the Department of Energy and Climate Change Parliamentary Select Committee on the proposed nuclear and other energy National Policy Statements, as representatives from pro-nuclear energy giants EDF, E.ON and RWE npower and the Association of Electricity Producers gave evidence.
Around half an hour into proceedings, two of the activists rose from their seats, stepped into the centre of the room and unfurled a six-foot banner they had smuggled in that read: "Local Democracy Dumped!", featuring radiation symbols and images of pyramids of radioactive waste drums. Meanwhile, a third activist handed out detailed briefings to committee members and the energy industry representatives explaining why they believed nuclear power was an unacceptable and inappropriate technology for tackling climate change.
The three activists were swiftly dragged away by police officers and detained at another location within the Palace of Westminster, along with a fourth man who had been photographing the incident. The four were held for over two hours for alleged breaches of "House regulations," before being released without charge and informed they were banned from the Parliamentary estate for the remainder of the day, thus missing the afternoon session in which anti-nuclear groups were to present their evidence before the Select Committee. They also had two banners confiscated.
The protesters were seeking to highlight the lack of local democracy associated with the new fast-track planning process, introduced under the new Planning Act, which it is thought will be used to silence dissenting local voices on major infrastructure projects, from nuclear and coal-fired power stations and nuclear waste dumps through to airport runways and motorways. Major decisions on such projects will in future be made by an unelected body known as the Infrastructure Planning Commission. Environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have threatened to bring judicial reviews of the new planning laws.
Mell Harrison, 38, Eastern Region CND co-ordinator from Suffolk, recently acquitted following a 2008 blockade at Sizewell nuclear power station, said:
“This consultation is a scam. I have attended the public meetings and exhibitions, which pay lip service to our concerns but nothing more. The new fast track planning system takes the decisions out of the hands of local communities, burdening them with a legacy of radioactive waste and a history of lies. The local people will be able to decide what colour the power stations are painted and where to plant the trees but will have no input on the fate of at least a hundred years of waste sitting on their doorstep. The nuclear industry tells us the issue of waste is all sorted, which it is not.”
She added: “Nuclear power is not the answer to climate chaos, and the building of new nuclear power stations is a distraction from the real solutions."
Ian Mills, 44, a veteran anti-nuclear campaigner from Chippenham, Wiltshire added: “The 'CON' in consultation says it all! We are being conned into believing we need nuclear power and conned into believing this consultation is democratic. Day by day our democracy is disappearing, and this time it’s the turn of the local planning process.”
Today's protest follows another yesterday, during the morning rush hour, outside Charing Cross Hotel in central London, where the Nuclear New Build Conference was taking place.
Daniel Viesnik, 35, from London said: “There are many groups and individuals around the country who feel as strongly as we do.
He warned: "If the Government and the nuclear industry choose to push ahead with their undemocratic plans for unnecessary, uneconomic and unsafe nuclear reactors, they can expect the protests and actions to gather momentum.”
All images are Copyright (c) 2010 D. Viesnik but may be reproduced free of charge for non-commercial purposes if credited. For high resolution versions or commercial use, e-mail vd2012-npp [at] yahoo.co.uk
More images here
Footage of the two Parliamentary Select Committee evidence sessions of 27 January on the nuclear and other energy National Policy Statements proposals can be viewed here:
Morning session, with energy companies giving evidence: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5723
(Footage suspended just before banner unfurled at 26:19, resumes at 26:40.)
Afternoon session, with anti-nuclear campaigners giving evidence: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5730
(Last edited: 28 January 2010, 10:10 GMT)