[Part 1 is available here]
The most recent idea has been to bury it. There is no consensus as to whether buried material should be accessible at some future time or not. Burying stuff so that no leakage is guaranteed is not easy. There have been some expensive failures even in the short term. We have no idea how to build a structure that will last 100.000 years. Even today, nuclear waste is processed to recover useable fuel and the unwanted residue is stored in short term storage.
The UK government has been offering hefty bribes to local councils to inveigle them into accepting a long term nuclear burial site (see here). No takers so far. The latest plan is compulsion. Legislation is being worked on right now. The Drigg nuclear waste dump is certain to be eroded away by the sea (link). Another cockup.
We also have 38 nuclear submarine hulks presently moored at Rosyth and Plymouth to dispose of somehow – every nuclear submarine we have ever built. They too were once due to be sunk in the deep ocean. An idea now abandoned. They are now being slowly and expensively decommissioned (see here).
Background radiation increase
We all have been subjected to “background” radiation since time began from the sun, stars and radon gas leakage from the Earth. However the atomic bomb tests in the 50s and 60s plus various nuclear disasters. means that this has been boosted significantly. There is no “safe” level of radiation, as radiation levels increase the chances of harm increases. The effects are cumulative. There is no doubt that the incidence of such diseases as cancer has been boosted (especially childhood cancers). Furthermore “clusters” of radiation linked diseases have increased density close to nuclear installations. The children of workers in the nuclear industry have also been somehow affected.
The UK alone has a 120 ton stock of unwanted plutonium recovered from reprocessed nuclear fuel and decommissioned nuclear weapons. This could theoretically be utilised in special reactors but these were abandoned years ago on cost grounds. This will be dangerously radioactive for around 500,000 years.
There is always the danger that terrorists could get hold of this material and make either a nuclear bomb or a ”dirty” bomb. (ie a conventional bomb that dissipates radioactive material).
All that’s needed to deliver a nuclear bomb is a truck, a small vessel or a container. Plus some Jihadi idiot to press the button.
The Great Flood
On the 16 January 1607 there was a great flood in the areas surrounding the Bristol Channel. It is suspected today that it was either a tsunami or a storm surge. There have actually been others in the same area. Around 2,000 people were drowned and 200 square miles of land was flooded.
The highest point of the flood was exactly where Oldbury and Hinkley Point nuclear power stations are located today.
In 1999 the Blayais Nuclear power plant 200 miles to the South in France suffered this exact fate and was a hairsbreadth from a Fukushima scale disaster.
As nuclear power plants have progressed, ever increasing bells and whistles have been attached to prevent nuclear accidents.
They have failed. There is a school of thought that too many bells and whistles actually makes complex installations less safe. As more and more nuclear power stations are constructed, the chance of nuclear accident increases. Many are now appearing/likely to appear in the hands of dodgy, third world and incompetent governments.
The government sold off our nuclear industry so we can no longer build our own nuclear power stations; A deal made with Hitachi and Toshiba fell through over finance so eventually a deal was concluded with Electricite De France (EDF), part financed by the Chinese. It will be the third nuclear power station on this site and will meet 7% of the nation’s electricity needs. Three million tons of concrete and a quarter of a million tons of steel will be needed – the most expensive nuclear power station in the world.
There will be two European Pressurised Water reactors. The cost of construction will allegedly be £20billion (but constantly rising). The whole dodgy finance issue has caused the directors of EDF to resign. The involvement of the Chinese in such critical infrastructure has caused political ructions. French involvement has caused ructions in France also due to state run EDF’s exposure to these dodgy finances as revealed by our own National Audit Office. Seven other sites are being considered for further similar reactors, all of them on existing nuclear power station sites.
Various organisations from the EUSSR to the UN have been putting their fillings in on just about every aspect of finance, legality and the very existence of the project. EDF might very well go bust over the ballooning costs and legal wrangling and we should be left with nothing. Whether the French government would allow this is unknown. Costs have doubled on original estimates and so far it is seven years behind schedule.
The prototype reactor of this type in Olkiluoto, Finland is fifteen years in the building so far due to various technical and financial problems and is still not running. The cost has tripled on the initial estimate.
The nuclear waste generated after the fuel is reprocessed is to be stashed away at the Hinkley site. Once again the can is being kicked up the road.
[… to be continued in Part 3]