The True Cost of Nuclear Energy

Some think that nuclear energy is an important source of electricity and ought to be part of every nation’s energy generating system. Others think that nuclear energy is too dangerous to use and we should decommission nuclear power plants all over the world. I tend towards the latter view, but accept that there may be some merit in the former view. Whatever view you hold about nuclear energy everyone who thinks about it agrees that there must be a safe and perfect way of storing nuclear waste to prevent the waste being used for weapons and to prevent the waste leaking into the atmosphere or the sea or the land where it will cause harm and damage to human health and to the health of the ecosystem where the waste is stored. Continue reading

Japan and Germany Close the Nuclear Door, and Britain Opens it

As one nuclear door closes so another nuclear door opens. First, the doors that are closing are in Japan and Germany. In Germany they have decided to decommission all nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster. The German government feels much more comfortable without nuclear energy. They are comfortable that they will have sufficient supplies from fossil fuel and renewables. In Japan the government are very uncomfortable about nuclear energy. The effects of Fukushima are still being felt. The Dai-Ichi power plant is still leaking radiation and 40% of the fish caught near the plant are unfit for human consumption due to high levels of caesium being found in fish. The fact that it is still being found in fish indicates that contamination is continuing either from leakage or form contaminated sediment or from groundwater run off or a combination of all three factors.

However the good old United Kingdom can still be found to open the nuclear doors. Continue reading

Radioactive Daffodils

When the UKgovernment asked for places to volunteer for sites under which high level radioactive waste from nuclear power stations could be buried it was met with a deafening silence. When it added some grant money and the potential for jobs only one place stepped up –West Cumbria, which is one leading a race comprising of only one participant.

The ability to safely dispose of nuclear waste by burial is not yet proven. Much depends upon the local geology and the precise methodology of storage. Radioactive waste is hard to contain unless you have a foolproof system of storing it and there are too many fools around for anything to be foolproof.

The issue is complicated by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) which may take place many miles from the storage site, but which may create weaknesses through which radioactive gases may escape to the surface of theLake District. A new Wordsworth may write

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high over vales and hills

When all at once I saw a crowd

Of radioactive daffodils

Turning a blind eye

Some leading environmentalists have recently pointed out that the United Kingdom’s new policy of encouraging new nuclear power stations to replace our “fleet” of ageing ones will effective hand over control of nuclear power in the United Kingdom to France. That may well be what happens, if the present plans proceed, but I can think of worse nations to have control of the UK’s nuclear industry. The issue is not really who controls the nuclear power plants. Continue reading

Some Good News Leaks from Fukushima

We associate Fukushima with a flooded broken nuclear power reactor, rather than good news, but good news has come from some research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution whose vessel has been measuring sea and sea organism radioactivity in the ocean affected by the Fukushima event. Continue reading

Secret Subsidies

I am pleased that environmentalists have complained to the European Commission that the United Kingdom is in effect secretly subsidising nuclear energy. The complainants argue (in my view rightly) that laws that cap liability for nuclear accidents or do not require the nuclear energy producers to clean up after they have made their money from nuclear electricity and a host of other subsidies are contrary to the EU laws which require these subsidies to have been granted state approval before they are implemented. Continue reading

Update on Fukushima

There was good news yesterday, or rather goodish news, from Japan. The Fukushima Daiishi nuclear plant has reached the stage of cold shutdown, and the nuclear reactors are now stabilised. The reactors need to be decommissioned and this process will take many years. It will also take many years to clean up, of for natural forces to clean up the contamination that has leaked into the surrounding sea and countryside. Continue reading