“Dirty bombs”

Reading Hugo Swire’s recent column in the Journal left me wondering whether he really believes his own placatory comments about the risks associated with nuclear power.

Does he really think they are reasonable and in our best interests?

He conveniently sidesteps the issues that worry me, as a layman, and seems more concerned with justifying nuclear power as a ‘way forward’ because he does not want to contemplate an alternative!

This, in itself, is worrying because unless somebody confronts the question, “What do we do if we cannot have nuclear power?”, nobody is ever going to answer it!

The threat posed by nuclear power is far greater to all of us than the impact of managing without it!

While Hugo Swire’s, and the government’s, approach to the nuclear industry appears not to have been influenced by the Japanese tragedy, my own views have been radically changed. I now think of ‘nuclear power stations’ as ‘dirty bombs without the explosive charges’!

Certainly, they behave in this way and when an explosive charge is applied, the surrounding countryside becomes uninhabitable. In Japan’s case the ‘explosive charge’ was triggered by an earthquake and the resultant tsunami. Land within 30km of the power station has already been rendered uninhabitable and the seas are heavily radioactive.

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Hugo Swire rightly argues that we could never have an earthquake or tsunami of such magnitude, but, surely, terrorism offers a far greater threat and, indeed, the possibility of a far greater explosive force.

The greater the detonation, the greater the spread of radiation and the greater the area which will be devastated and become uninhabitable.

So where does all this leave us in the South-West if the proposed new EDF Hinkley Point Reactor explodes when the wind is from the north-east? The answer is that it would leave us wherever the government decides that we should be evacuated and that will not be in the south of England!

Hugo Swire believes that nuclear power is low risk in this country. However, he does not explain what will happen to us if his assessment is wrong. Surely the risk to his constituents, if a nuclear reactor explodes nearby, should be far more important to him than the risk of having to manage without nuclear power as an energy source?

So, could I ask him to alert the government to these catastrophic possibilities and persuade them to commit themselves to producing a detailed plan on how this country can generate sufficient energy without building ‘dirty bombs’ (‘nuclear power stations’).

Safe they may be – but what happens if they are not? Is the low risk really worth the risk to us?

Geoff Morris

(via email).