It was not the biggest anti-nuclear demonstration ever staged, but when a few dozen flag-waving folk marched the final six miles to the gates of Hinkley Point nuclear power station on Saturday many of them did so armed with a passion gleaned from experience.
A handful of the protesters had walked the 130 miles from the Government’s nuclear establishment at Aldermaston after recently completing a similar march through the devastated Fukushima area of Japan – and they said they were in Somerset to bear witness to the potential dangers of radioactivity.
“Visiting the Fukushima area brings home how serious it can be – how an accident can happen even in a country with as good a safety record as Japan,” said one marcher.
Saturday’s marchers were led by a Japanese Buddhist priest, the Reverend Nagase, who said prayers at Hinkley Point’s gates and said: “Although the Japanese government says the Fukushima nuclear plant accident could not have been helped because of the tsunami, humanity cannot possibly accept this explanation.
“Nuclear bombs and nuclear power must be eliminated from the Earth.”
Angie Zelter, one of the demonstrators who had spent 10 days walking from Aldermaston, said the aim had been to raise awareness: “Most people don’t realise we still have nuclear weapons – and they don’t know that there are many thousands of people marching in Japan. Fukushima is still not under control.”
Local protester Nicky Clark said: “It’s really important to have a chance to talk to people in our communities. I think the media are doing us a disservice – people aren’t aware of what’s going on. Whatever decisions are made, that’s fine – as long as there are informed decisions and there is a public conversation.”
One local protester well versed in the nuclear debate was John Wealthy, who said: “I live 800 yards away, just across the common.
“I am, in a direct line, the nearest resident to Hinkley Point. And I’m here to demonstrate about the dangers of nuclear power.”
In welcoming the marchers to Somerset, Crispin Aubrey, of the Stop Hinkley group, declared: “You may see the big fences around the proposed site (where EDF plans to go ahead with Hinkley Point C), but that doesn’t mean they have started to build it yet. EDF do not have approval yet, so the possibility of stopping this is still strong.
“We were here over 20 years ago when there were plans to build a new nuclear power station, and they did get permission, but it never happened,” said Mr Aubrey to the biggest cheer of the day.