An Atom of Truth
As we know the truth does not come easy to some, from my own experience even those closest to you in business and in friendship can spin a web of lies so complex that I sincerely believe they would not know the truth if it bit them on their arse and jumped up screaming, “hey I’m the truth!” But I shall save the story of betrayal in business for the sake of pure greed for another blog, and what a blog that will be, naming and shaming the deceivers and the back stabbers. Reminds me of politics, but I digress. Yes the atom, a subject I have been fascinated by since I was a young child finding my way in science subjects, the ability of immense power hand in hand with the potential of immense destruction. With just the split of an atom we can raise a nation to the heights of an industrial power or turn a city into burning mass until it falls in superheated ashes to the ground in a second. The awesome power of nuclear energy catches my imagination because I grew up with the Cold War and mutually assured nuclear destruction, East against West in a destructive stand-off that could wipe clean life from this blue planet of ours. Even though the Cold War no longer exists, I am convinced with the decommissioning of nuclear weapons in the Eastern Block, the developments of nuclear power in Iran, and the nuclear stand-off between Pakistan and India, we are only a ‘Radical’ or ‘Fanatic’ away from a blinding searing flash, followed by a mushrooming ball of hell’s fire melting all in its path. Yes all it needs is one device to be put in the hands of people who believe life is for the taking to die a martyr, and you in a second enter a new era of terrorism that only the Japanese can truly appreciate.
Should this stop us investing in more nuclear power stations? I think not as long as it is tightly controlled and used only for its positive benefit to humans and not for the evil it can unleash. I am absolutely convinced that no more nuclear weapons can be tolerated and that those that do exist must be decommissioned wherever they are found. We may not be able to uninvent nuclear weapons but we can eradicate them from existing, and woe betide the dictator, the democracy or the communist that makes a nuclear weapon, as the rest of the world should unleash fury upon them so that it acts as a lesson to all that this cannot be tolerated for any reason, regardless of who you are. Along with the United Nations forces there should be a new force that comes under the United Nations Against Nuclear Weapons in the World. We are mature enough now to get rid of them all and if necessary use force to complete this mission – a nuclear weapon free world. It may be an ideal, just a dream but it is worth aiming for. It is within this context of decommissioning and what to do with nuclear material that is contaminated and irradiated, unsafe for the next 10,000 years, that I have been following events in Cumbria with some interest.
Only recently Councils in Cumbria, all but one, voted not to allow a nuclear depository to be built deep under the lakes and mountains of Cumbria. I thought it somewhat ironic that arguably the most beautiful County in England could have the ultimate in dirty waste under it for the next 10,000 years. But the Councils were not convinced that it was the right idea, even though there was a high level of public support for the depository due to the jobs and revenue it would bring to a region living off the fickle income from tourism. Cumbria was a good bet to agree to such a depository as it is home to the infamous Sellafield, one of our oldest nuclear power stations, and a power station that gave birth to nuclear age in Britain. But power plants such as Sellafield have reached the end of their working life now and this has given birth to the NDA, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
The Government are calling for private investment in new, far more efficient nuclear fission based reactors to be part of the non-fossil fuel based future of Britain. There is some debate whether we should be building yet more reactors to generate our light and heat, as there are three major problems that we face if we do go down this atomic route. It costs billions of pounds to build nuclear power-stations and takes many years to get them online, i.e. delivering power to our homes. The cost is so prohibitive relating to the building of them that no private company would take on such a build without significant subsidies from the Government. So we, the public, the complete mugs in all of this:
- Don’t have a choice whether we go down a route of new nuclear power or not;
- Will pay for new nuclear power through taxation whether we like it or not;
- Will pay for a second time through our energy bills, which will rise significantly according to independent industry Analyst, as the part of the build not subsidised will be recouped through higher prices – so what’s new, the public don’t just get the rough end of the stick but get shafted by it from the Energy Companies!
So this is the first problem, attracting companies with the right experience to come and build in Britain, when they have unprecedented demand for their products in China, emerging economies such as India, etc. In these Countries there is no difficulty pulling together a funding package, the private nuclear power industries have found their costs met in full by the Governments. These are also markets where regulation is far easier to negotiate than in Britain, so why would they want to build in Britain. Where here they also find opposition from communities raging “Not in my backyard”.
This leads me to the second obstacle, it’s not just the safety regulations that tie up these potential nuclear power corporations coming into Britain, although our regulation, rightly so, is extensive and takes years to have basic plans approved. These regulations pale into insignificance when one looks at the planning rules of actually getting one built in a specific spot. The Government think the opposition from landowners to their High Speed Rail line is bad; they think the opposition groups to building on ‘Green Belt’ land are ferocious, both tying the Government up in courts for years to come. But the opposition to have a nuclear power-plant on your doorstep unleashes legal war upon the local Councils and central Government. The announcement of plans being submitted for approval for a nuclear power-plant in your area is one of the few events that brings together not only a local community but solidifies an entire region in the fight to stop it being approved. This is often aided by large donations from funds that have one purpose, to stop the spread of nuclear power. From planning submission to getting Government approval to build in a specific place (as these matters are nearly always kicked up to central Government for approval) can take over 10 years. This is 10 years of protesting, pitched legal battles, appeal after appeal after appeal before finally a plant is given the go ahead. Even then it can be halted by European Courts, and even then it is going to take up to 10 years to build and come online. Which nuclear power-plant construction corporation wants all this hassle and expense when there are easier and more lucrative market places?
But the third problem is the real issue, the problem that is going to haunt a 1000 generations to come, 10’s of thousands of years! What the hell do we do with the waste? All nuclear power-plants create the most deadly waste products this world has ever known and this has come into sharp focus with Sellafield being decommissioned. Where does one put the eradiated waste when Sellafield and other nuclear plants are finally decommissioned, where to store it for a 1000 generations to come, where to put this mountain of deadly eradiated material safely? As if this problem wasn’t bad enough, and now made worse as Cumbria have declined to sit on the depository for nuclear waste, the utter cost of it all becomes totally ridiculous. One Scientist said to store the waste material over a 1000 generations is incalculable, trillions upon trillions upon trillions, the most expensive material ever created by man, a bill that will be paid by a 1000 generations. Let’s hope it is only money they have to pay and not this poison escaping. So let’s put the storage bill to one side and just look at Sellafield, the first to be decommissioned amongst a group of the first UK nuclear plants, all of which will need decommissioning soon. It is estimated (only estimated and the estimated bill has quadrupled since the project started) that the decommissioning of Sellafield will now cost £67.5 billion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is:
- Twice what the cost of the High Speed Rail Link plans;
- six times the cost of the Channel Tunnel;
- 5 times the cost to build the blinking place;
- £1,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK;
But what is more worrying is that out of the 14 projects currently going on at Sellafield to decommission it, only 2 are on time but all are over budget. Even the House of Commons Committee that monitors Government spending made a note of it being in the interests of the Contractors to drag out the timescale of decommissioning and hence the costs of £67.5 billion was rising every year, “spiralling out of control with no one controlling the Contractors costs”. The Decommissioning Authority alone spends £1.6 billion of tax payers’ money every year.
So you think paying £67,500,000,000 to decommission one plant is bad, well there are 16 operating in the UK, so that’s over a trillion pounds as a minimum to decommission them – £1,080,000,000,000 ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! But even this cost does not include where the hell you put all this eradiated material, and this is the real cost to us all and a problem for a 1000 generations to come. So I would like to suggest two things:
- Before we build even more problems for the future, let’s get the long term storage sorted – we don’t have a choice as the decommissioned waste isn’t going away, so let’s sort this out;
- For the same cost of decommissioning Sellafield we could put micro wind turbine and solar panels on every home in the UK and by so doing almost eradicating the need for more nuclear power, and also slashing carbon emissions for ever;
I wrote about this before and have a campaign running to spend money efficiently on making homes and businesses as power independent as possible, and therefore just leave the heavy power uses corporately to be supported by more tradition methods or maybe new technological developments will offer the solution to these high energy consumers. The Green Economy link is:
https://disabilityinbusiness.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/a-green-recovery/ I hope you can pass this to as many people as possible and let’s get the Government to think again about how to future proof our power supply, and think about a real alternative we are proposing. Forward the link to as many people as you can and maybe Government will take note (for once).
Smiling Cat Ventures and Innovations Group
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Moments in Time Ltd (www.momentsinmind.org)
Innovative Business Consultancy Ltd (www.ibcv.org.uk)
Systems of Equality Ltd
Passport to Care Ltd (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)
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Disability In Business Centre (in development)
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