Press Release: May 16  2011

Fukushima in the making


At Lydd Airport’s public inquiry on Wednesday May 18th, Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) begins its nuclear safety case with John Large, the first of four experts engaged by LAAG to demonstrate that it is inherently unsafe for a regional airport to be developed beside a nuclear power station complex. Expansion will introduce a step change in the probability of a major nuclear accident since large aircraft, such as Boeing 737s, will be taking off and landing close to the Dungeness site. Mr Large will outline the vulnerability of the Dungeness nuclear power stations (Dungeness A and Dungeness B) to an aircraft crash and reveal that the risk of serious radiological release remains on site well beyond the decommissioning phase.  

Chartered Consulting Engineer John Large, who has first hand experience of dealing with nuclear accidents, will demonstrate that even though he believes the reinforced concrete vessel of each reactor at Dungeness B would most likely withstand the aircraft crash, subsidiary equipment failures caused by the crash could lead to a very significant radiological release, mirroring the situation at Fukushima. The reactors at Fukushima shut down immediately with the strong earthquake as they were designed to do, but the complete loss of power and auxiliary service water supply which occurred after the tsunami, triggered the radiological release. 

Previously a United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority University researcher, John Large will also demonstrate the failure to assess and include Dungeness A and the nuclear rail head in the crash damage safety assessment. This is despite the admission by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) - now part of the Office for Nuclear Regulation - that Dungeness A, despite ceasing power generation in 2006, is currently considered more dangerous that the operationally active Dungeness B.  His evidence will also reveal a failure to undertake a demographic siting assessment required to take account of the additional population flows produced by the airport 

Fukushima reminds us that incredible events can and do happen which is why they should be avoided. Just as Japan will questioning the wisdom of locating nuclear power station on a coastline exposed to tsunamis, the UK should not choose to expand an airport next to a nuclear power station because it is inherently unsafe and places the general public at risk. The nuclear regulator is looking at the 'lessons to be learned' from Fukushima which requires it to re-evaluate the way in which it views this kind of accident where the probability may be low but where the outcome is so extreme. 

Peter Morris/ Lydd Airport Action Group/ 07766 680 990/
Louise Barton/ Lydd Airport Action Group/01797 361 548/
John Large Large & Associates/ 07971 088086/ 020 8317 2860/
(John Large will be available from 9am on Wednesday May 18th at the Civic Centre, Folkestone)

Notes to editors:

LAAG’s four expert witnesses contributing to the nuclear case are: John Large, Large & Associates, Dr David Pitfield, Transport Studies Unit, Loughborough University, Malcolm Spaven, Spaven Consulting and Mrs Trudy Auty, a consultant with over 25 years experience of industrial experience. 

John Large is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Graduate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Member of the Nuclear Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  Following the outbreak of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accidents, John Large prepared and presented intervention evidence to the European Parliament, he has been invited to join HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate’s Technical Advisory Panel on the Implications of Fukushima for the UK Nuclear Industry, and he is presently advising an international organisation on the continuing very serious radiological situation in Japan.  A full CV is available at 

Lydd Airport (which is owned by Sheikh Fahad al-Athel, a Saudi businessman) received planning permission from Shepway District Council on March 3, 2010 (a) to extend the runway at Lydd by 444metres to accommodate passenger jets (b) to build a new terminal to accommodate up to 500,000 passengers per annum (p.p.a.). In 2010 Lydd Airport carried less than 500 passenger. 

Following over 14,000 letters in protest, the Secretary of State called in the decision for review by a Public Inquiry which started in Folkestone on February 15th, 2011, and is scheduled to be completed in September 2011. 

In 1988 Lydd Airport submitted a planning application for a runway extension (no new terminal) to cater for up to 600,000ppa. After a public inquiry the Secretary of State granted planning permission in 1992 but the permission was allowed to lapse. 

Lydd airport is located on an ecologically sensitive site near Dungeness on Romney Marsh, Kent. It is located less than 3 miles from the Dungeness nuclear complex and lies between two active MOD gunnery ranges at Hythe and Lydd 

English Nature, RSPB, CPRE Kent & Kent Wildlife Trust, are all opposed to the development, and are presenting evidence at the inquiry.

The inquiry is being in the council chambers of Shepway District Council, Civic Centre, Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 2QY. Start time 9.30am. The inquiry is open to the public.

LAAG is an action group formed in 2004 to oppose the large scale development of Lydd airport. LAAG has ~3000 active members.