Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Anyone still in love with nuclear power?

As far as this observer knows the Greens and the SNP are definitely against building nuclear power stations in Scotland. Perhaps someone out there knows the other parties official line on nuclear power (and can provide links to manifesto statements etc)? Anyway, you might think Japan is a long way away but a regular gurnite sent a link to an alarming article:

"Europeans warned to avoid drinking milk or eating vegetables due to high radiation levels"

That headline is spin on advice from a French independent organisation CRIIRAD and for expectant mums, kids etc and another site has a more measured take on the advice: "The risks related to prolonged contamination among vulnerable groups of the population can no longer be considered "negligible" and it is now necessary to avoid "risky behaviour," CRIIRAD claimed." Just how serious do you take that information? Bearing in mind the UK Foods Standards authority stated on the 7th April:

"Following reports that radiation from Fukushima has been detected in the UK, the Food Standards Agency can confirm that levels are far too low to cause any concerns over the safety of any food in the UK.

There is a possibility that minute levels of iodine-131 could land on grass and be consumed by cows - but at these levels there is no food safety risk. Minute amounts of iodine-131 could also settle on the surface of vegetables but this will not cause any food safety concerns and will soon decay or be washed away."

Regular readers may have seen the link to one of Green Dad's articles recently:"By George, He Hasn't Got It!" Green Dad wrote about a talk given by environmentalist/journalist George Monibot in Findhorn. George has had a road to Damascus conversion to nuclear power and now supports it as the least ugly way out of our date with runaway global warming that still lingers just around the corner. I suppose Nuclear George is doing us a favour in pointing out the real deep mess we are in but there's no way this observer is convinced that nuclear power is safe. George reckons the green movement has misled the world over radiation. Now this observer is not a scientist but neither is George, he is a journalist. Yes a journalist that has done a great deal of research and read a lot of papers but then so have others, here's Helen Caldicott who beleives the Nuclear Apologists have misled the world over radiation.

Citizens, we have to find a way out of the mess we are making for ourselves but as food article linked above indicates, if we want safe food to eat in the future then we'd better stop building nuclear power stations and think of ways of making the existing ones safer. It might help, if you feel so inclined, to vote in May for parties that are against expansion of nuclear power in Scotland.

UPDATE: got the following information about SLAB and Scots Tory nuclear policy from HighlandSNP on twitter:

@GurnNurn Tories p.26. "we will end the policy of current Scottish Government of refusing to consider replacement of existing nuclear power"

@GurnNurn Labour manifesto page 15: "Any application for consent to new nuclear capacity will be considered on its merits"


Jim said...

You highlight a worrying problem.

Regrettably, the difficulties in Japan following the recent Tsunami show that the nuclear industry does not plan for every eventuality.

But the demand for electricity supplies continues to grow.

I lived briefly in California ten years ago, when due to the governing Democrat party liking neither nuclear nor carbon-fuelled power stations, they simply BLOCKED ALL POWER STATION CONSTRUCTION for nearly ten years.

Anyone flying into LAX or San Fran airports can't fail to notice the forests of wind turbines on the mountain ridges which surround both coastal cities. The winds in those situations are stronger and more reliable than the low-level Scottish windfarms.

BUT California had a power shortage! This resulted in 'BROWN-OUTS' where the voltage was dropped by ten percent or so in different areas in turn to reduce the load.

Some industrial and domestic equipment didn't necessarily function well with voltage drops. e.g freezers tripping out to protect the motors, but not coming on again automatically.


What happened next? Arnold Swartzenegger was elected state governor, despite being a Republican, with a mandate to BUILD MORE POWER STATIONS FAST.

But it takes years to build power stations. California power generation is still only just above demand levels.

So, suppose that the SNP or the Green Party say to the voters: TRUST US. WE DON'T NEED MORE POWER STATIONS, can we be sure the politicians to know what they're talking about?

They speak glibly of 'Renewables'. A great idea, which I agree with. But seriously, wind farm output varies greatly with the force of the wind. Wave power is more constant, but not yet used beyond the proving stages. The Severn Barrage - great scheme - was blocked by environmentalists. Sun power isn't a great alternative in northern latitudes.

No doubt future hydro-electric schemes in Scotland are also being blocked. Don't tell me there are no more sites.

The only alternative to new power stations today has to be to REDUCE DEMAND. Tell the voters to use less power - or be switched off. Ration electricity.

Out PCs will all die together! We would miss them too. What sort of election-winning slogan is that?

One cheering thought - all those new traffic lights through Nairn would switch off as well.

Graisg said...

George Monibot did manage to raise the odd smile at Findhorn, there was a gentleman in the large audience who thought we didn't have to reduce our energy demand as the economy as we know it would fall to pieces shortly.
Nuclear George stated he wasn't quite so sure but thought perhaps the bankers were really secret environmentalists trying to destroy the consumer society.

Spurtle said...

By all means encourage folks to vote for who they want...........but , if an anti-nuclear stance is one of the reasons for doing so, encourage the voters, whether they have a scientific bent or not, to do the 'math' as our American cousins would say.

Realistically, the variability of on-shore wind turbine output renders them nothing more than cash cows for those investing in them.

Offshore wind shows much more promise but the investors mentioned above don't like them , as they cost much more & don't offer the same return on investment.

Tide/wave would seem to be the only way that Scotland is going to generate the amount of electricity needed (reliably & predictably) to reduce the spinning reserve of either fossil based or nuclear generation required, and still guarantee the lights will stay on.

I personally think that it is perfectly viable for Scotland to create a network of tidal generation plants over the next 25 years but those investors keep popping their heads up & , if subsidies favouring onshore wind are not targetted at more reliable production means like tidal, then they will , understandably, keep placing their pounds on the easy bet.

Far more application needs to be made to reducing our power needs then, with reduced demand , we may start to creep towards a more sustainable future. In the meantime, the fundemental problem with going nuclear free in Scotland, is that there is a real risk that , even though we may make ourselves feel all cute and fluffy at the concept, we'll only end buying in power from England and elsewhere in Europe......which will be produced by nuclear means.

I am not pro-nuclear but my support for sustainable generation sources is reserved for those that actually stand a realistic chance of making any difference at all to the amounts of CO2 being produced

However verdant & well meant your leanings, I would recommend that sentiments are based on a sound science footing. At the moment, you can't square the power generation circle if you simply take nuclear out of the equation.

It may not be what you want, or indeed what I want but there are times when you have to wake up an smell the coffee, when there is still the electricity available to boil the kettle in the first place.

Graisg said...

Interesting comments - anyone looking for votes next month feel like pitching in?

Got this in the mail concerning Lib/Conned Dems:

""We will say no to a new generation of nuclear power stations; nuclear power is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy".

As to their stance now, ask Mr Cameron!"

Brian Turner said...

Well, the nuclear industry isn't worried about the dangers of investing, because the sector has been hugely subsidised by the taxpayer.

Without that subsidy, nuclear power would never be viable, and still isn't.

However, it's extremely good to have cost-ineffective nuclear reactors if you want to develop nuclear weapons, hence why it's seen as a "national interest" for the British government support them.

While the renewables sector is still a developing one, the SNP's push to make Scotland a renewable energy centre for Europe in the long-term is surely a laudable one.

Nairn said...

Brian, the nuclear industry in the UK is indeed worried about investment

As the terrible tragedy of the recent earthquake and tsunami continue to unfurl in Japan, we can only hope that the events halt further nuclear growth. Our government must be aware that public opinion has been deeply swayed, and no community is going to welcome any new nuclear plant without massive opposition.
Most of the planned new nuclear plant provision in the UK is/was to replace existing reactors, not to expand the 20% or so of energy that they provide (I’m not saying this is good)

Had Fukushima been Inverness Nairn would have been evacuated, and events in Japan may mean an even greater area cleared
We are free of neither earthquakes nor tsunamis in the UK. Scotland has been subject to tsunamis before, and currently some scientists believe we could be facing another tsunami if a shelf off Norway collapses
For those of us that attended George Monbiot’s recent thought provoking talk at Findhorn we are aware that production of power is a dirty business. Germany was mentioned for it’s nuclear free stance, but it imports a lot of power from France, much of it produced by nuclear
I’m with Spurtle in supporting tidal and offshore solutions, which might be more expensive but at least you know you are going to get tides working nearly the whole day unlike wind.

As for weapons grade plutonium, it was true years ago that nuclear power stations were used in part to help provide this, but now the world has a problem disposing of it as we have so much!

I’m sure this is a subject that will continue to be debated, especially as we await some sort of outcome in Japan that halts the world wide radioactive pollution