Open Engineering
Environment and Development.

Nuclear Power

The government has given the go ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK. The quality of the White Paper announcing the decision and of the consultation documents that preceded it, beggar belief ...

What People Say About Nuclear Power

"Licensing a nuclear power plant is in my view, licensing random premeditated murder." "Every responsible organization studying radiation injury now holds that cancer, leukemia, and genetic damage must be considered to be essentially proportional to dose, down to the very lowest radiation doses." "In one year of operation , a 1000-megawatt nuclear power plant generates fission products (like Strontium-90 and Cesium 137) in a quantity equal to what is produced by the explosion of 23 megatons of nuclear fission bombs--or more than one thousand bombs of the Hiroshima-size." - Dr. John Gofman, the pre-eminent Manhattan Project nuclear scientist and medical physician, who died in 2007.

"Nuclear power is neither the answer to modern energy problems nor a panacea for climate change challenges. It requires huge amounts of initial capital, while decommissioning plants is very expensive and costs continue to be incurred long after a power station are closed." - Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president (quoted in 'Gorbachev puts anti-nuclear case to Blair', The Guardian, Thursday June 8, 2006).

"At least 500,000 people - perhaps more - have already died out of the 2 million people who were officially classed as victims of Chernobyl [nuclear power station] in Ukraine" - Nikolai Omelyanets, deputy head of the National Commission for Radiation Protection in Ukraine. (UN accused of ignoring 500,000 Chernobyl deaths, The Guardian, March 25, 2006)

Ex-environment minister Michael Meacher told Tony Blair it was "patently untrue" that nuclear power was needed for the UK to meet emissions targets. Mr Meacher said "steady expansion" of renewable energy could allow the UK to meet its greenhouse gases targets. Nuclear power was more expensive than coal and oil, produced dangerous waste and was a terrorist target, he said.

"In 1966 I was appointed Minister of Technology with responsibility for the development of that programme. I was told, believed and argued publicly that civil nuclear power was cheap, safe and peaceful and it was only later that I learned that this was all untrue ..." "Nor are Britain's civil nuclear power stations peaceful as for many years, and still possibly today, the plutonium they produce was sent to fuel the American nuclear weapons programme." "At no stage, as a minister, could I rely on being told the truth either by the Industry itself, or by my own civil servants who may or may not have known it themselves.” - Tony Benn, who as a minister in the 1960's was in charge of nuclear power.

"But what is a safe place, let us say, for the enormous amounts of radioactive waste products created by nuclear reactors? No place on earth can be shown to be safe.” - E F Shumacher in 'Small is Beautiful', published 1973. (Postscript: In 2010, 37 years later, President Obama has set up a “Blue Ribbon Panel” to try to find a solution to the USA’s escalating crisis of radioactive wastes. Yucca Mountain in Nevada had been designated as the USA's geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste, but after 20 years of work and $14 billion spent, it was plagued with safety concerns and is no longer considered an option.)

"For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program." - Former US Vice President Al Gore.

"The international nuclear lobby does not want to recognise the the scale of the disaster in our country because if it does, nuclear power will be finished.” - Soviet scientist and nuclear power designer Vassili Nesterenko. (Shortly after completing a mobile nuclear power station to be used to power missile launchers, Chernobyl blew up. Nesterenko flew over the burning atomic plant and threw liquid nitrogen containers onto the reactor core. He survived but three others in the same helicopter died. He studied the effects of the radioactivity released by the accident and founded the Belrad Institute to continue this work. Because of his activities, he lost his job and was threatened with internment in a psychiatric asylum. He died in 2008.)

The 'Consultation'

Like the 'Dodgy Dossier' presented before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the nuclear power consultation document seems to have been written to justify a decision that had already been taken. Here's how it treats some of the key issues:

There were about 2700 responses to the consultation, from companies and organisations as well as individuals. My response is here:

Read my full response to the consultation ...

The White Paper

Curiously, the White Paper that proposes the construction of new nuclear power contains rather convincing evidence against doing so ...

Ignored: Plans that Show How to Generate the UK and Europe's Electricity Safely

The government consultation document and White Paper ignore studies and plans put forward by others that demonstrate how the UK can generate its electricity more safely and economically without using nuclear power. We are not talking here about the odd domestic wind turbine , but huge solar plants in southern Europe and North Africa, building integrated solar PV and hot water throughout Europe, wind and marine energy systems along Europe's Atlantic seaboard, biomass, and last but not least energy saving measures. Unlike nuclear, all these technologies are suited to mass production and are extremely safe.