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

A decision on whether to allow expansion of Lydd airport was due in March 2012 from Eric Pickles, but  this has been delayed for an unknown length of time. Meanwhile, the Lydd Airport Action Group has commissioned a new report from a doctor at Imperial College that shows the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was wrong 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. The Imperial College study showed that  Dungeness A, which ceased power generation in 2006, would still be a risk if hit by a plane.  Dungeness B, which is still working, would be a safety risk, being only 3 miles from the airport, and built before any consideration was given to the risk of a hit by a heavy aircraft.

24.4.2012 (Lydd Airport Action Group – LAAG)

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The ONR based its decision on the application of an outdated mathematical model called the Byrne model.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., 



· Lydd Airport, which is owned by Sheikh Fahad al-Athel, received planning permission from Shepway District Council on March 3, 2010

(a) to extend the runway at Lydd by 444 metres to accommodate passenger jets

(b) to build a new terminal to accommodate up to 500,000 passengers per annum (ppa.).

This is Phase 1 of a longer term plan to increases passenger numbers to 2 mpppa.

· The operator of Dungeness B, EDF/British Energy opposed Lydd Airport’s planning application because of the increase in the risk of an accident at Dungeness B caused by the introduction of heavy commercial aircraft taking of and landing at Lydd Airport.

Following nearly 14,000 letters in protest, the Secretary of State called in the decision for review by a Public Inquiry which ran from February 15th, 2011 to September 16th, 2011.

Dr Trotta’s work adds to the body of evidence relating to the issue of nuclear safety given at the 2011 public inquiry by the following experts: 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 of industrial experience.

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 between two active MOD gunnery ranges at Hythe (8 miles away) and Lydd (< 2miles away). Today 99% of the airport’s activity is represented by light aircraft (i.e. < 5.7tonnes).

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



There is information on the Dungeness reactors at

This says of Dungeness B  that:  “The station’s accounting closure date is 2018, 35 years after first power generation.  Life-extension options may be considered prior to this date”.


Anger that Inspector’s decision on Lydd airport will not be publicised yet

March 8, 2012     Government inspector Ken Barton chaired the 7-month inquiry into Lydd Airport’s expansion plans in 2011. This probably cost the tax payer up to £250,000. The decision has to be made by 14th March. However, it has been announced that this will not be made public until after ministers Eric Pickles and Justine Greening have made their decision. And there is no deadline by which they have to do so. There is speculation that they may not decide until next year, perhaps because the national aviation policy consultation starts by the end of this month, and this will have a bearing on whether expansion on Lydd is acceptable. There is local anger and frustration that the decision is being kept secret.    Click here to view full story…

Lydd Airport. Project runway: carving up the Kent marshes

Decision by Eric Pickles due in March

February 26, 2012    In a long and comprehensive article in the Observer Magazine, Jamie Doward looks at the issues involved in proposed expansion of Lydd airport, to take up to 2 million passengers – a massive growth from its current, sleepy state with around 1,000 passenger per year. The area is of immense wildlife value, being a NNR, SSSI, SPA and SAC. A decision by government is due in about a fortnight. The article says: ” If Pickles approves the airport’s expansion he will be going against the government’s adviser, Natural England, Shepway’s planning officers, the majority of Lydd’s residents, the scientific consensus on the need to reduce carbon emissions, the prime minister’s perceived green credentials and the coalition’s belief in empowering communities as enshrined in its much-vaunted localism act.” If government does approve it, “The whole character of the place would change because, as studies show, airports lead to urbanisation.”    Click here to view full story…



More news and information about Lydd airport at  Lydd Airport (London Ashford)