An open letter to UNITE union staff, 30th June 2014

As given out at the UNITE headquarters, London – Monday June 30th 2014

Unite Policy Conference, June 2014 -Enough of the Nuclear Dinosaur.

We are gathered here today outside the Unite headquarters in London in solidarity with our colleagues from Liverpool who are today outside your union, Unite’s, 2014 Policy Conference, to call into question your policy on nuclear power and weapons.

The only reason your union’s current policy is to support nuclear power and weapons is jobs. Yet look at Germany. They have lost 30,000 jobs in the nuclear power industry, yet created 300,000 jobs in clean renewable power generation, solar, wind and biomass. The nuclear power station at Hinkley Point near Bristol (cost: £16 billion and rising) would provide maybe 5000 jobs on-site during construction and 900 to run it, producing 3.2 GW, yet Japan alone installed 6.9GW of solar in 2013, twice Hinkley Point, and employed 40,000 in solar power installation and 20,000 more indirectly. So Japan created more power, did it quicker and cheaper, and employed more people, by using solar power than UK will with nuclear. China installed 12GW of solar in 2013. 4 times Hinkley Point in one year!

The thing about nuclear is that it can work well for thirty years, but if it has a bad day it can destroy a large chunk of your country. That is what the Chernobyl and the Fukushima disasters have shown. The Fukushima plant has been releasing 400 tons of highly radioactive water every day into the Pacific since the beginning of the accident, which the Japanese government seems to say is OK ‘as the Pacific is quite large’. Maybe it is, but it’s the only one we’ve got for all eternity, and anything thrown into it will end up moving up the food chain which we sit at the top of. To submit the human race to a compulsory experiment in genetic manipulation just to produce expensive electricity is both crazy and criminal.

The other thing about nuclear is that it produces tons of waste, spent fuel, which must be isolated from the environment for thousands of years. About 148,000 metric tons heavy metal waste have been produced by civilian nuclear power over the last 60 years, and nearly all of this is just stored at the plants where it was produced while the wrangling continues over what to do with it. To isolate it permanently by burying it is not possible on a tectonically active planet, one where the earth itself is moving around. The US tested a solution, called the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, in New Mexico, which they claimed would isolate the waste buried there in salt formations for 10,000 years. Well, it lasted 15 years. In February this year, barrels of waste stored there overheated and exploded, spewing plutonium out of the salt caverns and in to the surrounding desert and thus into surrounding towns, due to the fact that they had used a wheat-based kitty litter to absorb liquids in the waste instead of the previously used mineral based kitty litter. (Apparently their thinking was ‘wheat based is greener’!!) The cellulose in the wheat reacted with the nitrates in the waste: bang. They soaked it in kitty litter because they are prohibited from dumping liquid waste there. It now looks as if the whole waste disposal plant site will have to be permanently abandoned. Now where does the waste go?

We got into using nuclear power because back in the 50s and 60s governments built them to produceplutonium for nuclear bombs. To make them acceptable to the public, they used the heat produced to generate electricity that they claimed would be ‘too cheap to meter’. Yet today they still need massive subsidies to be built, produce electricity more expensive than that from wind or solar, and only exist because the taxpayer pays for the insurance of them and the waste disposal and decommissioning. A few businessmen on a gravy train. Hinkley Point will only be built (if it is) with money from the Chinese and French states, guaranteeing them undreamt of returns underwritten by the electricity consumer.

One last point; nuclear power is not ‘low carbon’ when you include the mining and processing of theuranium fuel, and to have any effect on global warming would have to contribute maybe 20% of the world’s energy, which would involve opening two nuclear power stations a week for two decades.Which, due to cost, is not going to happen. Solar and wind are continually becoming cheaper, nuclearcontinually more expensive. End your attachment to this dinosaur industry.

And CND were not even allowed to have a stall inside this year’s Policy Conference, in an attempt to suppress further discussion on nuclear matters, even though many Unite members and many other unions would rather see Trident’s £25 billion spent on improving life for working people in England rather than threatening to obliterate working people of other lands.

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