River Wissey Lovell Fuller

A Nuclear Soapbox

August 2009

John offers a counter arguement to Ron Watt's proposa; to delevop UK nuclear power.

In Last Month's Village Soapbox, Ron Watts describes the "Failure to maintain and develop our nuclear power" as a mistake. I would suggest that it would be a grave error for us to continue down this dark path for the following reasons. 1) The legacy of nuclear waste is a callous heritage to leave behind once we are gone. Do we have the permission of unborn generations to leave them to grow up in a world yet more toxic than it is now? Will they thank us for it? Plutonium has a half life of a 100,000 years. Despite the endless huffing and puffing technology does not have a safe plan for dealing with what amounts to a massive volume of volatile toxic material. 2) Mining Uranium. Vandana Shiva from her book "Soil not Oil" writes:- "Because most uranium deposits are low grade, 100,000 tons of rock have to mined to produce a ton of uranium. A standard reactor needs 100 tons of uranium. the conversion and enrichment uses halogenated compounds which are 10,000 times more potent greenhouse gases than CO2." "Milling and mining uranium uses more energy to recover than it will ultimately produce." "worldwide cancer rates are higher among people who live near nuclear plants". The mining also displaces people from their land thus depriving them of their heritage, means of livelihood and plunges them into poverty. What remains is a toxic wasteland covered in dumped yellow cake, (what is left behind after uranium extraction). The current so called debate about nuclear energy is driven from behind by energy companies looking for a profitable enterprise. They would not touch nuclear without government (ie tax payers') subsidies. The real cost of the nuclear plant will not be met by the corporation that profits from it. Construction and decommission are part of a subsidies package that hides the true cost of this enterprise. Privatise profits and socialise losses. (Just like the banks bail out) "If we take into account the full life cycle of nuclear electricity generation (including building and decommissioning the power stations, mining, transporting and milling the fuel and managing the waste) it becomes an open question whether future nuclear projects are likely to generate more energy than they use." The Transition Timeline, Shaun Chamberlain Construction of one plant will emit 20 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. No insurance company in the world will touch nuclear power. So who is underwriting in the event of accident and disaster? Yes, you and me; in effect, another massive subsidy. When the operating corporations have finished extracting profits from the plant and it ceases to be productive it will be handed back to us to look after for civilisations to come.

There is also only so much uranium available. If we were to meet today's energy demands with a worldwide nuclear generation programme, world uranium supply would dry up in 20 years. Nuclear does not give us, living in this part of the world, any more energy security than oil or gas. The suggestion that we could use coal in an environmentally friendly way is pure greenwash promoted, again, by energy companies scanning around for whatever is available to maintain their levels of profitability as oil and gas become increasingly expensive and their supply less secure Why is this all happening? The age of cheap energy is over, particularly oil. We are at roughly the halfway point in world oil resources, from now on it gets more expensive to extract and world energy demand is skyrocketing as China and India get going with their own consumerist dream. There is an energy gap emerging; we need to make some choices and we need to make those choices in the context of an urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions as the climate teeters towards chaos. We do not have long. Is it to be oil wars, corruption and oppression of third world nations for resource extraction backed by corporations and government? To leave our descendants a legacy of debt and poison because of our addiction to electricity and all it's comforts? The corruption of state leadership is never more evident than when their strategy for this emerging crisis is as follows. "We believe that a market based approach is the best way to manage these uncertainties, providing the flexibility to be responsive to developments we cannot yet know." (Transition Timeline, Shuan Chamberlin). To translate, carry on with business as usual, keep our fingers crossed and hope something comes up. Chaimberlin goes on to propose. "yet there is another option that is rather more likely to succeed as a response to a shortfall in energy supply - simply reducing demand." A re-evaluation about what is important in our lives is long overdue. Do we wish to leave this planet in a better condition than when we entered it?

John Preston

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