In 1981, the Central Electricity Generating board (CEGB) announced a possible extension of Hinkley Point, the following year plans were firmly set in place. One immediate response was the formation of the ‘Alliance against Hinkley C’. This was initially formed from an active anti-nuclear waste dumping campaign in Somerset from the 70’s and members of Friends of the Earth from Bristol.
In 1985, Somerset County Council (SCC) after 100 years of Tory rule changed to a Liberal and Social Democrat Alliance with Labour. After Chernobyl and a major radioactive gas leak at Hinkley when 500 workers were given potassium iodate tablets the council came out firmly against expansion at Hinkley. SCC set up their own radiation monitoring system and discovered radioactive contamination underneath the fuel casks where they were loaded on to trains in Bridgwater.
In 1986, to prevent confusion with political parties, the ‘Alliance against Hinkley C’ was renamed ‘Stop Hinkley Expansion’ (SHE). Greenpeace, who were campaigning to shut all nuclear power installations, supported SH enabling 2 part time workers to be employed.
April 1987, the first anniversary of Chernobyl, saw the biggest rally ever at Hinkley, 1,000 people and wooden crosses in the shape of radiation hazard symbols pushed into the verge outside the power station, a flotilla of boats and a bi-plane trailing the words ‘No more Chernobyls’. Paddy Ashdown addressed the crowd alongside children dressed in radiation suits.
The 1986 Labour Party conference voted to reduce dependence on nuclear power.
The application to build Hinkley C was submitted to SCC at the end of August 1987. SHE supporters scaled the fence of the proposed site.
Three months consultation and 10,000 official objections led up to a public inquiry opening on 4.10.88. Outside an inflatable elephant towered above Paddy Ashdown, the recently elected leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats. Greenpeace funded an office for SHE at the inquiry. 600 people took part in the hearings and official objectors rose to more than 20,000.
After 12 days of hearing it was announced that the 36 ft steel pressure vessel had been ordered at a cost of £17 million. In May the inquiry inspector made a visit to the factory making the pressure vessel and also visited Chernobyl.
During 1988/9 the government was attempting to privatise the electricity industry. From behind the extravagant promises of cheap, clean and endless power the reality of rising costs, failed technology and hidden dangers became centre stage. The government failed to sell the nuclear part of the industry to private investors.
As the inquiry was ending, in Nov 1989, the government announced that all attempts to expand the nuclear industry were ‘on hold’ until it was clear nuclear could pay its way. In fact, after the inquiry was finished and his report written, the inspector announced approval for Hinkley C (in Sept 1990). However, there was no longer a commitment to build Hinkley C and there was no more funding for nuclear power until 1994. Sizewell B in Suffolk became the only PWR (more modern reactor design) ever built in the UK, against the background of original government plans for a series of at least 10.