10 January 2008

It's pronounced 'nucular'. Nucular.

Speaking of all things Booming Back, the UK government today gave the go ahead for the construction for a new generation of nuclear power plants to be built, without government subsidies or involvement, the first of which will be online by 2017. This is what will be keeping me awake tonight, and probably every night for the next nine years.

The thing that alarms me the most about the new UK plan is the fact that it will all be handled by private contractors, and the UK's safety record with privatized industries is very, very bad. While the rail network is the most obvious example of why handing responsibility for people's lives to an operation based around securing the lowest cost margins is a Bad Idea(TM), there are sadly many more.

The second worry for me is the fact that a suspiciously large number of the proposed sites for the new plants, the majority in fact, are on the west coast of the UK on the Irish sea. The Irish sea is already the most radioactive body of water in the world mainly from the existing Sellafield nuclear plant(though also in part from a high volume of nuclear submarine traffic) which experienced no less than 21 separate accidents between 1950 and 2000. The reality is that already the east coast of Ireland is in constant danger of a major catastrophe occurring and we have no control over it at all. Building more plants in the UK is like adding more bullets into a game of Russian Roulette.

James Lovelock is a good example of how a number of the pioneers of the green movement when faced with the global crises of climate change have begun to vocally support nuclear power. Much of the conversation revolves around coming up with new sources of power to meet the ever increasing demand, but unfortunately too little conversation is around actually reducing power consumption.

I saw a short report on the BBC yesterday on how Cuba is trying to present itself as a global green consultant. When the Soviet Union collapsed Cuba lost it's subsidized supply of oil. The ensuing crises reduced the country to 4 legged transport for non-essential services, and the government launched an oxen-breeding program to replace tractors and mechanized ploughing in farming. The fact that trade sanctions had left Cuba with nothing but 1950's gas guzzling US 'classics' compounded the problem. Cuba now wants to turn this experience with enforced 'powering down' to good use and market their skills to a world coming to terms with peak oil.

The response to climate change should be framed primarily in examining ways to reduce consumption, and then by examining Greener ways to meet that reduced consumption. Nuclear power is not an option, for ways too many to mention (many of which involve Mr Burns).


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