Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Building nuclear power stations is not the best solution

Listening to George Osborne you might be wondering why we haven't been building nuclear power stations on a regular basis for the last 40 years. His declaration that the new station to be built with Chinese investment, underwritten by UK taxpayers of course (we wouldn't want anyone taking a financial risk without a taxpayer bailout clause now would we), would produce clean energy is nay part of the story.

While it's true that a nuclear station does not produce greenhouse gases, they do produce waste that takes a long time to become safe. We have to store it in steel containers, in water before we encase it in concrete and bury it somewhere. Okay, there are probably a few more options, but don't be fooled, radioactive waste takes a long, long time to become safe. In some cases we're talking about not just a decade or two but several millennia. 250 millennia in at least one case before it become half as dangerous as it is now.

So while there are no CO2 emissions and other nasties being pumped into the atmosphere, don't think it's all plain sailing when it comes to nuclear power. There is a price to pay. Nuclear power is no panacea to solve our energy needs. We need some joined up thinking. Renewables have to be part of that plan, and a big part of the plan. I know there are issues with the costs of producing energy from renewable sources, but which would you prefer, cheap energy that has a lasting legacy in the environment, or the development of an energy strategy that will use a wide variety of generating programmes?

At university, all those years ago (next year it will be 40 years since I started my degree in Chemistry and environmental Science) a friend of mine had a T-shirt carrying a simple message: The only safe fast breeder is a rabbit. I'm not sure if today's nuclear station fall into the fast breeder category or not, but the message might still have a degree of pertinence.

No comments: