News emerged yesterday of a worrying conflict of interest in the UK approval of the new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) proposed for Hinkley Point by EDF. The Guardian has reported that two of the senior staff employed by the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to review EDF’s designs had EDF pensions. This calls into question the impartiality of the assessment and whether key safety issues have been properly addressed. The speed with which serious issues were overcome during the assessment raised eyebrows at other European nuclear regulators with the Finnish regulator saying “I don’t know how they did it so fast.” The suspicion is that many of the safety issues have not in fact been resolved but that the ONR and EDF hope that they will have been fixed at some future point. That’s a hell of a gamble. Surely now, the approval needs to be re-run using properly independent staff. Can you imagine the furore if the local council hired in planning officers to advise on a major housing estate only for it to be revealed that they were on the pension roll of the very housebuilder seeking permission? There’d be uproar! The officers were be sacked and there would be calls for a criminal investigation. And that’s just for a bunch of houses. Who’d bet that this unbelievable conflict of interest involving a nuclear power station will be properly investigated? I can hear the sound of the corner of the carpet being lifted already.