The Nuclear Truth – it’s time we faced up to it.


Facing up to the world’s energy crisis is a major challenge facing us in the 21st Century. Educating a global population to look towards alternatives to fossil fuels is a priority.

But continued use and expansion of nuclear power is not an alternative. Chernobyl, Fukushima, and now Washington – provide warnings of the danger of using nuclear fission to derive energy, and the further risks from long term storage of nuclear waste. The argument often offered is that nuclear energy is more cost effective than sustainable energy (such as solar, wind, tide, geothermal or wave energy) . Yet support for nuclear energy on financial grounds is flawed. EU calculations for financing nuclear expansion for mining of Uranium in the Ukraine ignores the cost of disposal of the toxic waste . Following Fukushima, the The World Bank estimated the cost of the nuclear crisis at $235bn (£144bn) making it one of the world’s most expensive disasters. The truth is that nuclear power in not cost effective when the cost of extraction of uranium and the cost of storage of highly dangerous waste.

Nuclear waste can continue to emit radiation for centuries, and it could potentially become unstable, if handled and stored improperly, setting off a chain reaction which could create a nuclear accident.

This waste will remain dangerous for millions of years, and we add to it every day.

So exactly how long does nuclear waste remain?

From Greenpeace website:
“Plutonium 239 has a half-life of approximately 24,000 years. That means that after 24,000 years half of the radioactivity contained in the plutonium will have decayed. However, the hazardous life of radioactive waste is at least ten times the half-life, therefore these wastes will have to be isolated from the environment for 240,000.”

The current statement by the US government is that nuclear waste should be considered dangerous for 1,000,000 years, but I have not seen a reason for this number. A better number, because the standard can be easily understood, comes from the European Union. This is that nuclear waste should be considered dangerous until it is no more radioactive than naturally occurring uranium ore, which is 6,000,000 years.

It has been recently reported (BBC)  that nuclear waste is leaking from tanks in Washington.

  • Six underground storage tanks at a nuclear site in the US state of Washington are leaking at a rate of up 300 gallons (1,136 litres) per year.
  • Nearly 200 ageing containers hold millions of litres of radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
  • Established as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943, Hanford was home to the world’s first full-scale plutonium production facility.
  • It was part of America’s bid to build the world’s first nuclear weapon during World War II.
  • The site produced the plutonium for the bomb that was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Production at Hanford continued until 1989.

Clearing up this waste will be costly. The issue with nuclear waste is that serves no peaceful purpose, yet remains dangerous for many centuries and continues to emit radiation. No matter how we are reassured of the safety of Nuclear Power, accidents happen, and accidents are more likely happen when costs are cut, where profit is the motive.

If nuclear waste were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be used to make a dirty bomb, which could spread radiation over an inhabited area.

To add to risk for continued use of nuclear power is madness and total unnecessary. The truth is that our energy requirements can be met by wind, solar, wave, HEP, geothermal and tidal. While Germany is rejects nuclear power , the UK lags behind.

The UK is on a similar latitude and has additional resources Germany does not have. There is  an enormous source of tidal power at the mouth of the River Severn, and miles of coasts surrounding our islands which could harness wave power.

Without doubt, we must halt the damage to the world’s climate by the use of carbon-emitting fuels. But to look from one disaster to another is ludicrous, and unnecessary. That we should risk accidents, from geological disaster or terrorism, a dependence on nuclear energy for the future is madness. The risk to life is so huge it should not be contemplated.

  1. REUTERS: Nuclear waste leaking from six tanks at Washington star nuclear site.
  2. BBC: Nuclear Waste leaking from Washington site
  3. Wiki How long does nuclear waste last for?
  4. BBC: Germany announces non-nuclear 
  5. Think Left Some of the Scientific Evidence – Climate Change
  6. ITV Boost to Britain’s nuclear plans
  7. Labour Party: Ed Miliband: By Tackling Climate Change we can be better off together
  8. Think Left: The Energy Trap
  9. Renewable Energy, Specifically HVDC Power Grids 
  10. EU: Ignoring safety risks in financing nuclear expansion in Ukraine 
  11. South West Against Nuclear

Project Osborne


Update: George Osborne’s response to the loss of the AAA rating from Moody, is that he is just going to keep on doing what he has been doing.. in spite of the flat-lining economy, the increasing deficit and a potential triple-dip recession.  All of which adds substance to the suggestion that Osborne has another agenda.

Since it seems that the Tribune magazine website is still not working, I have taken the liberty of posting Ian Aitken’s excellent piece from the latest edition. Tribune is always an excellent source of left-wing thinking and cannot be more highly recommended.

‘Led into the Darkness by Tory guiding light Osborne’

by Ian Aitken

One of the most extraordinary features of present-day British politics is just how few of its citizens appear to realize how awful – indeed, how evil – their present Government really is.  Amazingly, this almost wilful blindness seems to apply as much to Labour voters as to Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Yet it becomes increasingly obvious with every day that passes that the true aim of George Osborne – who remains the ideological guiding light of the Tory wing of the coalition Government – is the destruction of the entire post-war settlement which emerged from the achievements of the 1945 Labour Government. Osborne is hell-bent on dismantling the welfare state in its entirety, and he doesn’t seem to care what else he has to destroy to achieve his aim.

What makes it even more outrageous is that Clement Attlee and his colleagues had a massive parliamentary majority behind them when they took office, and therefore an unchallengeable popular mandate for what they intended to do.  David Cameron and company have no majority, and therefore no mandate.  They did not win the 2010 election, and such majority as the Government possesses relies on the votes of Lib Dem MPs, not one of whom ran on an Osborne programme when they were elected.

I have no doubt that Osborne knows full well that this will be a one-term Government, and that he will be a one-term Chancellor.  So he clearly intends to complete the job of wrecking the welfare state before the inevitable defeat in 2015.  And he probably calculates that, provided he wields the axe with sufficient brutality, it will be almost impossible for any succeeding government to put Humpty together again.

That, I believe, is why Osborne appears to be so indifferent to the catastrophic impact his policies are having on the British economy.  It is blindingly obvious that his programme of savage cuts in state spending is contributing to the depth of the crisis, and even threatens to plunge the economy into a triple-dip recession.  Now even the International Monetary Fund is telling him to ease up on the austerity.  Yet he pays no attention whatever.

I am convinced that this is because, in his eyes, the spending cuts aren’t just instruments of a failed economic policy but a positive good in themselves.  They aren’t unfortunate measures forced on him by the need to cut the deficit (as he constantly tells us), but a specific means to creating a free market, stand-on-your-own-two-feet, devil-take-the-hindmost society of a kind that we have not seen in this country since the early years of Queen Victoria.

Margaret Thatcher began this process by deliberately creating the unemployment which enabled her to destroy the power of the trade unions.  Thanks to her, Osborne has been able to do his even more destructive work without having to worry about militant action by organized labour.  The pity of it is that he has hardly had to worry about the militancy of the labour movement as a whole – including, I fear, the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Can Osborne pull it off in the time left to him?  As things stand, he probably can.  But if the rag-tag army of the opposition parties – including not only the Greens but also a large swathe of the Lib Dems – can get themselves organized and into action, it is possible to slow the process so radically that Project Osborn could be derailed.  I can think of  nothing that matters more right now – certainly not horsemeat in burgers or (say) gay marriage.

So what is holding us back?  I fear that a major factor is the mood of cynicism which has engulfed the voting public ever since the scandal of MPs’ expenses.  Strangely, the ‘they’re all in it for themselves” culture that now holds sway on the doorstep has become the active ally of Project Osborne.  Too few people believe politicians who express the kind of innocently idealistic aims that formed the basis of Attlee’s great victory in 1945.

But this may be Ed Miliband’s opportunity.  Perhaps his lack of charisma could prove a positive advantage, just as it did for Attlee.  No one could accuse Clem of being in it for himself.  Nor, I think, could they accuse Ed.

22 February 2013 Tribune p5