Press Release: April 25 2012

New report shows the UK nuclear regulator was wrong in not opposing Lydd Airport’s planning application

A new report from Dr Roberto Trotta of Imperial College, London indicates that the nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), was wrong in failing to oppose Lydd Airport’s controversial planning application for a runway extension and new terminal - designed to transform this small local airport into a regional airport capable of supporting 500,000 passengers per annum in its first phase of development.

The ONR based its decision on the application of an outdated mathematical model called the Byrne model.  This concluded that the probability of an accident at the Dungeness nuclear complex caused by the introduction of heavy commercial aircraft at Lydd Airport was so small, it could be ignored.

Dr Trotta’s work, which was commissioned by LAAG, argues that the Byrne model used by the UK nuclear industry to determine the probability of an aircraft crash into a nuclear power station is seriously flawed. Further, in its application to the Lydd Airport development, Dr Trotta concludes that the “resulting estimate for the crash probability into the Dungeness nuclear power plants cannot be considered robust nor accurate”. Furthermore, since the Byrne model lacks a statistically principled definition and application of risk, I conclude that its output is insufficient as a basis for sound and informed decision making regarding the increased level of risk of a major radiological release in connection with the planned expansion of Lydd airport.”

Dr Trotta’s work also shows that the increased risk in the developed case would be significant.  

Therefore, it was erroneous for the ONR to conclude that the probability of an accident at Dungeness resulting from the introduction of heavy aircraft taking off and landing from Lydd Airport would be so low that it could be ignored. Equally, that the background risk dominates even after development.

Dr Trotta’s research cannot be ignored and must be considered in the context of the evidence provided by LAAG’s existing consultants at last year’s public inquiry. Some of the salient points are listed below. 

(a) Lydd Airport is located less than 3 miles (< 60 seconds flight time) from the Dungeness nuclear power. If developed, Lydd Airport would become the only airport in Europe supporting large commercial aircraft as close to a nuclear power plant. 

(b) Dungeness A and Dungeness B designs’ predate any regulatory necessity to take into account the possibility of crashes of large commercial-sized aircraft.  

(c) Only a safety assessment of Dungeness B was undertaken. There was no assessment of the older, Magnox station, Dungeness A, which ceased power generation in December 2006.   

(d) Risks remain when power generation ceases. For as long as Dungeness A and Dungeness B remain on site, even when shut down and with all of the spent fuel removed off-site, they will continue to present a radiological risk throughout the extended 100 year or so decommissioning phase.  

LAAG believes the issue of nuclear safety in its own right provides sufficient grounds for the rejection of Lydd Airport’s planning application.

Louise Barton
Lydd Airport Action Group
The Hook Madeira Road
Littlestone, TN28 8QX
01797 361 548 

Notes to editors: