Nuclear safety review prompts Dungeness 'airport risk' row

Lydd Airport terminal design Lydd Airport bosses want the expanded airport to take up to half a million passengers a year

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Campaigners fighting expansion of a Kent airport near a nuclear power station have called for the plans to be halted because of a safety review.

The Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has set up a panel to look at accidental aircraft crash risk.

It said the panel was not specific to Dungeness but an inquiry into Lydd airport expansion had raised issues.

Campaigners say the move shows Lydd poses a danger but the ONR said the airport was not affected by the review.

The ONR said Dungeness was the only nuclear site in the UK close to an airport. The two sites are about five miles (8km) apart.

'Scaremongering tactics'

Louise Barton, from the Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG), said the purpose of the panel was to look at evidence from last year's public inquiry into Lydd Airport expansion and claimed the inquiry showed the current model for assessing aircraft risk to Dungeness was "severely flawed".

Ms Barton also said the panel would look at whether there should be a minimum distance between a nuclear plant and an airport, and added: "That would rule out an airport like Lydd."

Dungeness nuclear power station There are two nuclear power stations at Dungeness

Lydd Airport and the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins, said campaigners were using the issue to put off airport expansion.

Lydd Airport issued a statement that said: "We believe LAAG continue to use their scaremongering tactics to try and urge as many people as possible to write to the secretaries of state in order to try and get them to refuse our planning application."

The MP added: "Louise Barton and the Lydd Airport Action Group are looking for any excuse they possibly can to delay or put off forever, the expansion of Lydd Airport."

'Small increase in risk'

He said Dungeness A was being decommissioned but Dungeness B could have its power-generating life extended, and there were hopes of a Dungeness C in the future.

The planning inspector's decision on Lydd has not yet been released.

An ONR spokeswoman said Mike Weightman, the UK's chief nuclear inspector, set up a technical advisory panel because he was aware of emerging methods for analysis of aircraft crash hazards.

She said the recent Lydd inquiry took evidence from people not connected to the UK nuclear industry on aircraft crash analysis techniques. These reached different conclusions to those used to date, she added.

And she said: "Our assessment of the aircraft crash risk for Dungeness, in relation to the proposed expansion of London Ashford Airport (Lydd), has not changed.

"There is a very small increase in risk, but this remains below the level at which we would, or legally could, object to any expansion of the airport."

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