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Archive for January 14th, 2008

Dusting off Old Plans

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Somewhere in Whitehall is the repository of all those politically unacceptable plans that Governments wish to push through but can’t, and if we could look at the shelf we would probably see: GM crops, Identity Cards and finally, Nuclear Power.

When an appropriate moment arises, the plan will be dusted off, brought up-to-date with a new gloss and tried again on the general public, but this week it’s not GM food, it is worse.

Climate change and the latest fad for being “carbon neutral” have given impetus to those dusty old plans for nuclear power in Britain, and it is a fine pretext.

Glistening new power stations, clean, environmentally friendly and above all carbon neutral. What more could the environmentally conscious want?

Hmm, sounds too good to be true?

Well it is.

For years, new nuclear power stations were delayed because of concerns over the decommissioning of older stations, the costs were unknown, the methodology unclear and where to store all the nasty radioactive excrement?

Banks and The City, always game for a risk, wouldn’t touch nuclear power with a 200 metre barge-pole, and with just cause.

However, times have moved on and our memory of leaking nuclear effluent has faded, along with the hundreds of leaks that occurred and were covered up.

But have no fear, it’s all changed, or so we are told.

The technology is essentially the same: nuclear fission

The same technology that led to nuclear contaminants in the sea and land around Sellafield.

The defenders of nuclear technology will say that they have the matter in hand and it won’t happen again, such errors were in the past and not reflective of modern advances, yet when we examine matters we see that even after 2004 there were problems:

No one knows when the cracks first started to appear, but as long ago as 2004, British Energy voiced concerns about fractures in the cores of its 14 reactors.

The cracks were spotted in graphite bricks in the cores of all the company’s advanced gas-cooled reactors, or AGRs. Collectively, they provide the country with nearly one fifth of its electricity. But the extent of the potential damage, and the consequences that might flow from it, were uncertain.

And let’s not forget:

A nuclear plant in Cumbria has been fined £2m after breaching regulations, which led to a radioactive leak. Acid containing 20 tonnes of uranium and 160kg (353lb) of plutonium escaped from a pipe and was found in a sealed cell at Sellafield in April 2005. Plant operator British Nuclear Group Sellafield (BNGSL) admitted responsibility and was fined by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). No one was hurt and no radioactive material escaped into the atmosphere after the leak at the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) part of the site.

But the spillage, discovered in April 2005, may have gone unnoticed for eight months. In June, at a hearing at Whitehaven Magistrates’ Court, BNGSL pleaded guilty to breaching conditions attached to the Sellafield site licence. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution, arguing the firm failed to ensure safety systems were in good working order and that radioactive material was effectively contained. The operator of the Dounreay nuclear facility in Caithness, Scotland, has also incurred a £2m financial penalty after the spillage of highly active liquor at a waste processing plant in September last year. NDA has debited £2m from the annual fee the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) receives from the quango. The penalty was revealed on the same day it emerged that UKAEA could face criminal charges over rogue radioactive hot spots which have leaked into the sea from Dounreay. The magnitude of the incident led to it being registered on the International Nuclear Event Scale and resulted in enforcement notices being issued by HSE’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

To be continued…

Written by modernityblog

14/01/2008 at 02:48

Posted in Uncategorized