Statement to the Nuclear Energy in the UK conference – March 2015

Kick Nuclear Statement to the Nuclear energy in the UK: priorities for new build, funding and developing the supply chain conference, which was held on tuesday 3rd March 2015 at the Royal Society.

‘Nuclear Energy in the UK’ conference, March 2015.

We are here today at your nuclear industry conference to again try to bring a little realism to your deliberations. Wind, wave and solar are cheaper, cleaner, lower carbon and therefore loved more by everyone outside the nuclear power industry, and we are here to urge you to stop flogging your nuke horse, because it is dead.

Solar power costs have dropped 99% since 1977, 60% since 2011. And that decrease is not slowing down. On-shore wind has now dropped well below the strike price offered to the doomed Hinkley Point power station, and off-shore wind is getting close. In last week’s UK renewable energy auction, both on-shore wind and solar came in at around £80 MWh, cheaper than the £92.50 MWh offered to Hinkley Point nuclear power station. And Hinkley’s subsidy is linked to inflation for 35 years, by which time it will be worth around £320 MWh, according to calculations by the very-unimpressed Austrian government, who have taken the whole subsidy to court.

The truth is that nowhere, ever, has your industry built a nuclear reactor without a huge slab of government money. And if the true costs of both insuring against meltdown and disposing of the waste and the plant when eventually retired were included, your industry would be shown to be several times more expensive that the alternatives. If the cost of insurance, currently paid by government as another hidden subsidy, were included, the strike price of nuclear would rise to over £200 MWh. And the unreliability of nuclear power carries its own costs, as the National Grid has to have 1,800 MW of backup power on standby for when one of the 1,600 MW Hinkley reactors suddenly goes down, due to a swarm of jellyfish, (as in Torness recently), or other engineering problem. And these costs are spread across all sources, which means that wind and solar have to pay these costs so as to keep down the apparent cost of nuclear.

And why cling to an industry that has no plan for dealing with its own waste? The WIPP plant in New Mexico is a dedicated geological disposal facility built to hold waste for 10,000 years. It lasted 15 years before suffering a series of fires and explosions in barrels holding waste, caused by mixing of nitrate salts, lead gloves, cellulose based kitty litter, and improper (ie. fraudulent) labelling of contents. The explosions led to plutonium and other radioactive substances being ‘puffed’ up out of the ground, and drifting off to the nearest centre of human population, Carlsbad. Of course, nuclear industry supporters immediately chorused that the quantities were safe, were insignificant. But they always do, in spite of numerous scientific studies showing that there is no safe, lower limit of radiation exposure.

The following statement was printed as a leaflet and handed out to attendees of the Nuclear Energy In The UK conference in London, March 2015

We don’t understand how the nuclear industry can keep doing this to it’s own children; have they convinced themselves that ‘a little radiation is good for you’? Swallowed their own propaganda on ‘hormesis’?

Of course, the real killer for your industry is the fact, the fact, that you have a meltdown every seven years. Windscale, Three Mile Island, Tschernobyl, now triple Fukushimas; yet your industry continues to demand that we trust you to do better in the future, and that you’re really sorry and will try and avoid the corner-cutting, risk-taking, regulatory capture and bad practices that led to the last meltdown. Health and Safety by trial and error, where you get to keep the profits and we get to keep the cancer. If you had manfully fronted your disaster at Fukushima and actually admitted it was a catastrophe and that it would take serious money to deal with, ($500 billion), then you might have retained some respect for your scientific honesty and technological competence. But the main focus after Fukushima has only been restarting Japan’s other 48 nuclear plants, and so the population have been told to absorb in place, eat Fukushima food to help the zone recover, smile a lot and have a positive attitude, while half the medical community have accepted instructions to calm patient worries by denying any link to radiation for their complaints. While 400 tons of radioactive water a day continue to gush into the Pacific. ‘It’s OK, the Pacific is quite large’, your industry argues, having sworn blind since the 50’s that you would never unleash any radionuclides into the environment.

So use your technical knowledge of atoms and electrons to join us in solving the world’s energy needs in a safe, sustainable way, as urged by the Prime Minister of Japan during the Fukushima meltdowns, Mr Kan. He called nuclear ‘an unsafe and expensive technology that is not compatible with life on this planet.’

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