British activists blockade Queen’s backyard to brand energy giant’s nuclear power bid a “right royal rip-off”; two arrested

Campaigners brought rush hour traffic to a standstill on the morning of April 11 to protest against EDF Energy’s plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK. All four lanes of the A302 outside EDF Energy’s headquarters in Grosvenor Place – which runs alongside the gardens of Buckingham Palace – were sealed off shortly after 8 a.m. using 14-foot tripods. The cleared zone was then declared a “nuclear disaster area”.

After seven hours, the police called a specialist team to erect scaffolding to bring down the two activists who were on top of the bamboo tripods.   Once they were down, the pair were arrested and taken to the Belgravia police station.

Campaign group, Boycott EDF, says the energy giant is spearheading a “nuclear renaissance” which could see the construction of at least ten new nuclear reactors – a move spokeswoman, Bella Benson, claims will spell disaster for the UK.

“EDF has spent a massive amount of money marketing itself as an environment-friendly company,” says Benson. “But the truth is that it’s planning to lumber us with an outdated form of energy that is incredibly dangerous, extremely expensive and completely unnecessary. As the company’s HQ is opposite Buckingham Palace, it would be fitting to call their plan a right, royal rip-off.”

Benson apologised to motorists delayed by the protest but added, “The inconvenience caused today pales into insignificance compared with the dangers that EDF Energy is planning to impose on the British public. The government is trying to slip the nuclear energy issue through the back door and this is the only way we can get our voice heard.”

Boycott EDF says a “nuclear renaissance” will mean soaring electricity bills. Says Benson: “Nuclear power is so dangerous that millions has to be spent on safety measures. The government claims that the public won’t have to subsidise the costs of “new nuclear” but you can be sure we will end up taking a hit – through hidden subsidies such as fixed-price contracts and a hike in our electricity bills.”

Recent research in Germany has found that young children are more than twice as likely to contract leukemia if they live near a nuclear power station. “The nuclear industry has been trying to down-play the effects of radiation after the tragedy at Fukushima,” Benson adds. “But decades of mismanagement by the nuclear sector has left us with a legacy of cancers and hundreds of tonnes of toxic radioactive waste that nobody know what to do with. Nuclear energy has no place in the 21st century.”

And the campaign insists that nuclear power is the worst possible option for combatting climate change. Benson explains: ‘The new EPR reactor is untried and untested and will produce waste that is even more toxic. Moreover, documents leaked from EDF Energy show that there are serious design flaws.’

EDF has already caused great concern  – even before construction of “new nuclear” has started. An independent report published last year found that land designated for EDF’s two new mega-reactors at the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Somerset is heavily contaminated with enriched uranium. But EDF has dismissed the report.  “With such a hazardous form of energy, best practice must be observed at every stage. We find EDF’s attitude shocking,” Benson concludes.

Cheaper, greener alternative strategies have been put forward by respected organisations including Greenpeace, the Sustainable Development Commission and the New Economics Foundation.  Says Benson, “The billions earmarked for new nuclear power stations should be invested in further developing safe forms of energy such as renewables and the type of district heating plants (combined heat and power plants) that can be run on biogas. It’s a scandal that there hasn’t been an informed public debate about this issue.”

The campaign is urging customers of EDF Energy to say “no to new nuclear” by switching to other energy providers. It is also asking the public to boycott events and attractions  – such as the London Eye  – sponsored by the company.

Photos available here.