War Memorial Gary Trouton

Letter to the editor from peter Bodle

September 2009

Peter replies to John Preston's article on Nuclear power

Dear Ray,

John Preston's article A Nuclear Soapbox was a very interesting piece from one side of the current, topical, 'Green' debate. Many of John's points are true, but in some ways appear either out of date, or so universal that they need explanation to further the debate, which is the point of this reply.

Taking John's points in order before adding a few random thoughts of my own, I would offer forward the thought that although low level waste was disposed in a very cavalier fashion some 40 to 50 years ago, Vitrification using Borosilicate glass encapsulation and deep sealed disposal has probably gone a very long way to solve that problem. Besides...we are stuck with this stuff regardless, so we had better sort out a way of disposing/storing it safely, or as John so rightly pointed out, we do our children and grandchildren no favours and leave behind a problematical legacy.

Mining, like most human endeavours, can certainly displace people, both towards and away from the mining area...It is just the way of things. New factories attract workers, and always have done since Grimes Graves started up, just down the road from Stoke Ferry several thousand years ago. New towns, roads, plantations, new forests, whatever you care to name all do the same, just as the seasonal and long term migration of the food-chain herds did in the days of the hunter-gatherers.

As the UK's Magnox reactors all seemed to have operated successfully for about double their planned life expectancy and the PWRs are probably doing the same, I would think that a very detailed look at the accounts package would be needed to check amortisation periods before we can conclude anything regarding values in relation either to financial matters or to resources used. However we do pay taxes for just this contingency, and in theory (at least) it was supposed to be costed in at the start.

What is now certain is that wind power turbines also appear to fall well short of their earlier projected amortisation periods, and the current trend of placing them in low wind areas of this country will certainly not help matters.( although now we know that they cannot feed into the national grid, it certainly explains another of their shortfalls.) The fact that many individual turbines and sites are operated as individual limited companies, does lead us to believe that the wind generator operators have also taken to the idea and jumped on the bandwagon of running the plant till it breaks then bailing out, declaring the individual company insolvent, paying their £1.00 to companies house or wherever, and then drifting off into the sunset, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill for the de-commissioning.

However, on a good note, the latest designs of sea/ wave/ tide/ river flow, generator turbines appears to have a much better grasp of efficiency and longevity. It will be an interesting development to watch. Perhaps these 'tidal' systems will bridge any energy gap, should one occur.

I certainly agree with John that we should leave this planet in as good a state as we entered it, (if not better) so how about starting with eliminating waste? Ever driven down a city street late at night and tried to guess the amount of power being wasted with advertising...security lights... street lights by the million? (Sceptical??? Try... Google...Images...and type in "the earth at night" and see the light energy we collectively pump out into space hour by hour, day by day and year by year...staggering).Streets will still be as safe (or not) with every other street light switched off after say 11 o'clock and how about those 'heat curtains' so beloved by shops so they can keep their doors wide open at the height of a winter snowstorm???... Waste or what???

Further Thoughts.

At the moment the airline industry is a popular 'whipping boy' in the press, but hang on, it is one of the few industries making really big strides to clean up its act. The fuel efficiency of the latest breed of high-bypass jet engines is a quantum leap forward compared to those of the mid 1960s.

But we now learn that the cement industry, world wide, chucks out more greenhouse gasses than all aircraft engines Civil, Military etc. combined, so how come no one is writing pages full of doom and gloom stories in the 'Daily Wail' about that?

One thing is for sure, we cannot un-invent Nuclear Power, Jet Engines or Cement, so we have to learn to control them. We also have to be able to make informed decisions based on facts, not opinions, vested interest, or downright mis-information. Sadly at the moment these arguments, on both sides, are awash with all of this. The truth, as always, is the first victim of this sort of debate, and by the time folks like John and you and I have to try and rationalise some of it, many people have already put their own spin on the data in the public domain; some for profit, as John mentions, some for book royalties, and some for addition research grants and the comfy life style that academia can bring.

Ray, as I said in some earlier scribbling in The Pump about wind power that you were kind enough to print, what we, the great British public really need are some proven, verifiable facts and the truth. Not too much to ask surely?

Peter Bodle

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