Activists hail nuclear plant protest

Protesters who blockaded a nuclear power station today have said their actions were a "phenomenal success" in shedding light on opposition to new nuclear reactors.

Members of several anti-nuclear groups who are part of the Stop New Nuclear alliance barred access to Hinkley Point power station in Somerset in protest against EDF Energy's plans to renew the site with two new reactors.

Stop New Nuclear claimed more than 200 people took part in the peaceful "celebration of resistance" - which saw just one arrest - while EDF said the number of protesters was closer to 100.

Stop New Nuclear spokeswoman Camilla Berens said they were protesting against the plans put forward by EDF Energy and the Government and to draw attention to their belief that the UK does not need new nuclear power stations.

"We cannot move forward because everyone has bought the line that nuclear is needed to keep the lights on," she said.

"That is blatantly not true, we know there are alternatives. If a country like Germany can do it there is no reason the UK cannot follow."

Hinkley was one of eight sites the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) confirmed in June as being suitable for new nuclear power stations to be built.

Hinkley Point C, as the project is called, would be the first nuclear power plant in the UK for more than 20 years.

The others are Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Oldbury, south Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; and Wylfa, Anglesey.

Stop New Nuclear comprises groups from across the UK, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), CND Cymru, Stop Nuclear Power Network UK, Kick Nuclear, South West Against Nuclear, Shutdown Sizewell, Sizewell Blockaders, Trident Ploughshares and Stop Hinkley.

The protesters said they started their blockade at about 7am, with a theatrical troupe who "enacted a nuclear disaster scenario similar to Fukushima", the power plant which was badly damaged during the earthquake which struck Japan on March 11 this year.

Most protesters were from the South West but they were joined by protesters from Belgium and Germany, they said.

At noon, 206 helium balloons were released, representing the number of days since the Fukushima incident started.

The balloons' journey will be tracked "to show which areas of the West Country will be worst affected should a major disaster happen at Hinkley Point".

Avon and Somerset Police said one arrest was made during the protest, for possession of an offensive weapon.

Mike Harrison, station director of Hinkley Point B, the current power station, said the company respected the right to peaceful protest but that nuclear power was a vital part of the UK's future energy production.

"We believe strongly that low-carbon nuclear has a vital role in maintaining UK electricity supplies in the future," he said.

"As the Government has said, the UK continues to need new nuclear power.

"We also appreciate greatly the support of the large majority of local residents who recognise the contribution we make to the area and the benefits that a new power station would bring to Somerset.

"On Hinkley Point C, EDF Energy continues with work on the design assessment of reactors, the site preparation conditions, preparing the application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission, and engaging the highly skilled people and suppliers who will help deliver the project."