Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Government must reject advances of nuclear industry and embrace renewables

The first anniversary of the Tsunami in Japan, that caused such dramatic damage to the Fukishima nuclear plant, aroused debate across the world.There were programmes marking the event, interviewing those involved from the Japanese Prime Minister to the brave fire fighters who put their lives at risk to bring it under control.The Prime Minister chillingly revealed that the whole thing sat on a razors edge and could have been much more catastrophic in its effects.As it is the effects of the radiation are likely to make the area around the plant uninhabitable for many years to come.It was most galling to hear the squalid defenders of nuclear power playing the numbers game, claiming few people had been killed. Those killed by such huge radiation leaks don’t die immediately but usually have long lingering deaths over years due to cancer and other diseases. One result of what has happened is that Japan is now looking to eliminate nuclear power as an energy source. Germany has followed suit, committing to phase out nuclear energy and switch much more fully to renewables. Other countries are looking to follow. After any of the major nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl it is as if there is a sudden reality check amongst nations as to the true horror of what could happen gets unleashed. The nuclear industry usually takes a big hit as a result.Indeed, it is ironic that the threat of climate change has this time revived an industry that was in decline. Politicians and nuclear industry advocates have managed to promote nuclear power as a low carbon, climate friendly form of energy.The nuclear industry has been particularly successful in Britain in promoting its wares. There is huge investment in public relations in order to promote nuclear power. It seems less than coincidental that Britain, unlike Germany and Japan, is pushing on with its new generation of nuclear reactors as part of the mix for low carbon energy provision.Indeed, rather than looking to renewable energy sources, like wind, wave and solar it would appear Britain could be moving away from these sources. There was the recent letter from over 100 MPs urging the government to remove subsidy for inshore wind turbines. This has helped create an uncertain environment, dissuading big companies from investing in the UK thereby creating jobs in the green technology area.It is difficult not to think that the attack on renewables is linked in some way to the pervasive and influential nuclear lobby. The industry has powerful influence with leadership of all the political parties.Yet, those who have had direct dealings are less than impressed. Former energy minister Tony Benn has said he would not believe a word they say. He recalled how when he was the minister responsible, not being told about a huge fire at the Windscale plant in 1957. Since those days the nuclear industry has only become more powerful and persuasive in the corridors of power.Walking around the shores of this land the massive untapped energy sources of wave, wind and solar power are obvious for all to see. It will be sad if because of the short sighted nature of the political class, and influence of the nuclear lobby, these sources remain tapped.Ofcourse the same sources that provide such potential for renewables also represent another danger for the nuclear industry. The vast majority of Britain’s nuclear power plants are positioned in coastal location, rising sea levels due to climate change will mean they require ever more fortifying from the sea. Otherwise a potential catastrophe awaits - another cost, another danger.Today, Britain needs to invest heavily in renewable energy sources. It is not helped in this respect by seemingly having a Chancellor who is a climate sceptic. The content of the recent Budget confirms that those at the head of government remain wedded to the idea that there is no such thing as peak oil and that supplies are infinite. As oil runs out so the price will increase and there is only a certain amount of time that tax payers can be expected to increasingly subsidise the motor and airline industries. Building a new airport will be one of the biggest white elephants that any government has invested in over recent years.The UK needs to move away from oil dependent industries toward renewables. Nuclear power is no solution . The sooner that Chancellor Osborne wakes up to this reality and recalibrates the economy toward green technology the better

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