You are here

What are we fighting for?

As the global climate crisis tips into an emergency, we face urgent decisions about our energy supply. Do we seek a future based on sustainable development, with social justice and equity at its heart? Can we reduce our carbon footprint through reduced consumption, energy efficiency and innovative cleaner energy sources? Or do we continue to scrape at the bottom of the last century’s energy barrel, holding out for some miraculous technological quick fix, so long as it doesn’t affect business as usual, with the social inequality and environmental degradation that will continue to flow in its wake. Nuclear power has been with us since the mid twentieth century and has never lived up to the promise of cheap energy for all. To date the costs have included: Displacement and sickness to communities living near extraction sites and those living near power stations; Serious accidents leading to land and water resources being permanently contaminated; And a build up of radioactive waste that needs on-going energy inputs just to keep it stable. In the UK the costs of developing nuclear technology for civil and inevitably military use have been borne by the taxpayer, either through public ownership, or more recently through subsidy mechanisms such as contracts for difference. CfD guarantees that bills for electricity from Hinkley C will be twice what we currently pay, with this multiplier increasing with every new power station built. This covers the cost of construction, but not the ‘clean up’ costs should something go wrong – which are also due to be underwritten by the UK Government. Should new nuclear be part of our clean, green energy future? With the 2018 IPCC report on limiting global warming to 1.5°C predicting that investment in low carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency needs to be upscaled by a factor of six from 2015 levels by 2050 – do we want a large proportion of this going to outmoded and unsustainable nuclear power? With serious change needed in the next 12 years, what can be achieved by building infrastructure that typically overruns on time and budget estimates. For example Flammenville 3 on the north coast of France was due to be finished in 2012, a five year timeframe, but is currently still under construction at triple the original budget of €3.3 Billion. The current industry preoccupation is with Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNR), a way of introducing nuclear power quickly and comparatively cheaply at multiple sites. It is unclear if they have understood the level of objections this may face, comparable to the reaction to the industrialisation of the countryside and contamination of local environments which has brought the nascent domestic fracking industry to its knees. This year we are facing another key decision about our future in the UK. You may not have heard, but the Government is holding a public consultation about their approach to burying the nuclear waste stockpile that has built up over the past 70 years of play now – pay later energy policy. The consultation ends on March 31st, kicking off a five year site search period, looking for a willing host community in England with suitable ground conditions for burying high level radioactive waste. Seperate approaches are being used in the rest of the UK. We are presented with two options: Leave the waste in toxic, poorly managed and crumbling storage facilities at Sellafield and elsewhere; or can it, bury it on the doorstep and forget about it, letting the contamination slowly leach into the environment over the next few centuries. The option of new surface managed facilities, such as those being developed in Scotland, is deemed too expensive and too much of a commitment. However at least this presents future generations with some options about how to deal with our mess other than simply to receive a radioactive dose in their food and water supply. One thing is clear – we need to find a solution to the current waste crisis before we go ahead and create yet more of it. We have a tradition of innovation and creative thinking in the UK that needs to be supported to find real solutions to our energy crisis. Reliance on nuclear as a panacea is preventing more dynamic solutions from coming to fruition. A combination of lack of investment, withdrawal of subsidies and a planning environment that prioritises large scale national infrastructure over flexible, small scale entrepreneurship and communities’ needs is destroying our hopes of a 100% renewable energy future. An example: The Swansea Tidal Lagoon, a prototype large scale tidal scheme predicted to power 150,000 homes, capable of being replicated in numerous coastal locations and utilising innovative technology that could be exported to the rest of the world. Rejected for subsidy by the Government as too costly at £1.3 Billion, while elsewhere in Wales they offered to directly invest in the Wylfa nuclear power station coming in at £16 Billion and generating energy for half the time and toxic waste for eternity. Even the National Infrastructure Commission thinks this is nuts, advising last year “Given the balance of cost and risk, a renewables-based system looks a safer bet at present than constructing multiple new nuclear power plants.” We will be gathering at the Springfields nuclear site in Lancashire, the dark heart of the UK nuclear industry, to highlight the need for action on the twin fronts of new nuclear generation and radioactive waste disposal. Springfields is where nuclear fuel has been produced for both civil and military use, and waste processed for both the UK and foreign nuclear industry. It is an opportunity to follow the route of radioactive waste as it travels our transport network, to understand how this issue affects everyone, everywhere. We will even be dressing as barrels of waste in an attempt to break a world record for surrounding a nuclear site. We will be having conversations about how our nuclear energy use affects communities elsewhere in the world and sharing information about the likely effects of a Geological Disposal Facility waste dump in Cumbria or elsewhere. We don’t have much time to make the right decisions. Are we going to choose long term, socially responsible and ethical energy supply? Will we make a moral commitment to the wellbeing of future generations? We need to come together and make the Government approach these challenges with vision and creativity, not with the poverty of ambition, opacity and lack of foresight that characterises the nuclear solution. IPCC 2018: Summary for Policymakers para C.2.6 large_GDF_0.jpg Vision for a deep geological storage facility from BEIS

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer