<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
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Nuclear power is not the answer

It seems we have an energy crisis. And a climate change crisis. And Middle Eastern states acquiring nuclear weapons. We also have problems with health service performance, under-resourced and unmanageable schools, demand on the national grid, water running out, suicide bombers attacking us, cancer and leukaemia on the increase and no-one knows how to store radioactive waste.

One answer would be to develop nuclear power. We could hold an inquiry into future electricity production in the UK as the preliminary to an energy review which could make proposals to build 10 new nuclear power plants with untried and untested reactors. This might be a multi-billion pound gamble, but it would take so long to build them, and produce so much depleted uranium waste that terrorists would just wait for the inevitable accident and not bother to attack us – and we would have the perfect excuse for not reducing our carbon emissions for ages.

If there was a problem, the recent alert at Torness shows us how quickly British Energy call in the emergency services, purely as a precaution even if a tiny wee amount of escaped radiation is caused by debris getting into the fuel handling area – nothing to worry about. British Energy director of the plant went on record to state that there have been no radiation leaks at all. (In 2003 British Energy was fined £15,000 for dumping radioactive waste from Torness into the North Sea)

Technical and safety problems dog most of the 1950’s UK nuclear power stations. Because of the discharge of dangerous emissions, they have a stop-start history. The ongoing effect of the emissions on the environment threatens the health of millions, and the proposals for dealing with the new and additional radioactive waste is to carry on as usual; store it. No one knows what else can be done. The devastation wreaked if it leaks or explodes is unimaginable, to say nothing of the potential damage from terrorist attack.

Chernobyl was twenty years ago. One year ago, on 15 January 2005 Professor Vasily Nesterenko,a member of the Belarussian Academy of Sciences published an account of why he is of the opinion that we missed a nuclear explosion at Chernobyl by a hair’s breadth. In April, 1986, the researchers of the Physics of Reactors Department of the Institute of Atomic Energy at the Academy in Belarus made calculations which showed the critical mass for an atomic explosion which could produce a force 50 – 80 times greater than the force of the explosion at Hiroshima, resulting in the whole of Europe being exposed to an enormous radioactive contamination. It was estimated that this explosion could occur on 8 or 9 May 1986. Tens of thousands were urgently dispatched to dig a tunnel under the reactor and to install a cooling coil, working in high temperatures and very high levels of radiation. It is impossible to overstate the fact that the total self-sacrifice of these young people prevented a highly likely nuclear explosion. The majority became invalids and more than 20,000 died between the ages of 30 - 40. On 7 May 1986, the fire, which had been raging in block 4, was put out. The people of Europe should be eternally grateful.

There has not been adequate investment in renewable sources of energy, while the investment required for nuclear and the time scale before obtaining a return is vast. Of course the technology is appropriate for developing and building nuclear weapons. There has been no serious consideration given to the need to de centralise and support communities to meet their local energy needs. Is there a question of control involved in maintaining the need for centralisation? It seems illogical to suggest that renewables should be written off in favour of a technology which cannot be tried or tested without massive long term spending - and which we cannot safely stop once we start.

Improving our energy use can have a far more far reaching effect on reducing carbon emissions than scattering depleted uranium around power stations - even without considering the emissions produced during mining and processing the ore to produce the uranium or the treatment, transport and storage of the waste, now and into a very long future.

Decentralising allows local solutions to local needs, and makes buildings that are using small-scale renewable technologies contributors to the local energy networks rather than consumers; this can be applied gradually over years as part of an energy descent plan to counteract the effects of reaching and passing peak oil production. That contribution can come on line at an early stage, rather than after billions of pounds of expenditure, massive organisational, administrative and top-down controls being put into place with major policing to prevent sabotage.

Our government, like the US , is quick to understand the links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons as far as, for example, Iran, is concerned. Would that they could recognise the need to get rid of both at home, and utilise the money, expertise and technology to create a safer, cleaner and renewable future for us all.
Janet Fenton

 


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