Nuclear power stations are a prime terror target – the alternatives create meaningful work and a friendlier society as by-products rather than CO2 and radioactive waste

The Somerset campaign against the proposed Hinkley C has many of the features highlighted on this website, according to Theo Simon, songwriter, actor and campaigner who reasons with George Monbiot:

– corruption of the planning process to favour corporate interests;
– democratic decisions prejudiced and mis-directed by government officials;
– lack of accountability and transparency;
– flagrant disregard for processes which protect our natural heritage;
– media monopolisation,
– and of course, bribery.

Fellow demonstrators are not all anti-nuclear, but people who value the democratic safeguards which limit corporate land-grabbing and environmental destruction in Britain – safeguards which the new planning process has now fatally undermined.

Simon adds: “From their point of view, what is happening at Hinkley is a test-bed for the whole “fast-track” planning regime and what it could mean for projects in other parts of Britain – road-builds, runways or any other project favoured by a government that justifies new-nuclear by its commitment to reducing carbon emissions (!)

Do we live in a planning dictatorship? Is the whole IPC process a charade at public expense?

The IPC has started its final 6-month examination of the EDF application to build 2 new reactors at Hinkley Point, yet before the permission has been granted, apparently with a special licence to clear ground during the nesting season, Theo Simon says that EDF’s contractors will start to clear 400 acres of West Somerset coastland, “including the habitats of red-list species, skylark breeding grounds, bat roosts and the little stand of West Quantocks oak woodland, not to mention a place of much archaeological interest and recreational amenity. All this will be demolished, felled, stripped and levelled before EDF have obtained planning permission to build.”

He points out that, by the time they make their recommendation the environmental impact will have already happened: “Rare habitats? – What rare habitats?”By the time it gets to the secretary of state the site in question will have been reduced to a series of bare platforms, ramps, pits and trenches and Simon comments that it will seem almost bloody-minded not to grant EDF permission to finish the job.

The essential point: the nuclear machine is a prime target for terror and toxic pollution

He emphasises an essential point about the nuclear machine here: it is a prime target for terror, a prime source for lethal military material, and so potentially hazardous that all activity around it must be tightly and carefully controlled, it is a process that demands impenetrable security, armed policing and authorised-only access. The paradox is that, as one of the most uniquely toxic industrial processes we have ever developed, the greater good requires that there is total public scrutiny of its affairs – but the world is not safe enough for that, so we must rely on unaccountable self-regulation instead.

The public consultation, which has just ended, ruled out in advance any consideration of the safety, sustainability, viability or necessity of the project

“These are all deemed to be issues already decided by higher bodies and. This reduces local people and their councillors to showing their resistance through wrangles over bits of road widening or costs to the public purse. However, I have been able to identify one aspect of the Hinkley C proposal which is both a planning consideration and a central issue to the argument against taking the new-nuclear route.

“This issue falls within the remit of the IPC as outlined in DECC’s “Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy” which reads:

5.14.7 The IPC should consider the extent to which the applicant has proposed an effective system for managing hazardous and non-hazardous waste arising from the construction, operation and decommissioning of the proposed development.

It should be satisfied that:
Any such waste will be properly managed, both on-site and off-site;
The waste from the proposed facility can be dealt with appropriately by the waste infrastructure which is, or is likely to be, available.

I can summarize EDF’s proposal here: It will be someone else’s problem, in about 100 years time

In the words of the planning application itself: “There are substantial uncertainties with respect to the characteristics of the future baseline conditions.” There are indeed. Yet that is the point at which managing the radioactive waste and spent fuel rods – which cannot be safely moved for up to another 100 years after that – will become the sole activity of the site.

People living in Somerset then won’t have any choice about it, but neither will they be receiving any benefit. Indeed, they will have to generate substantial amounts of power from somewhere else in order to fulfill their compulsory duties. For several generations they will need to monitor, maintain and refurbish a toxic waste heritage site bequeathed them by their great great great great grandparents. They may not want to do it. They may not know how to do it. They may not even know why they have to do it. But do it they must.

We don’t need to pick nuclear up

We are in a climate emergency, and in an emergency it can be acceptable to suspend normal operations and make unpalatable compromises. But starting more nuclear fires and leaving our children’s children to put them out is not the only option we have for continuing our lives on Earth. It’s just the one that looked easiest to the British status quo at the point where it became unavoidable that we had to de-carbonize the economy. It is as if we were saying to our children “We have had to behave irrationally (nuclear) to avoid behaving even more irrationally (fossil fuels), because we didn’t care enough about you to take a rational, but more politically challenging, route”. To me this is the path of political expediency over ecological principles. In its train come the eager proponents of Geo and Bio-engineering, with their new-styled technocratic optimism, which looks a lot like the old-fashioned hubris of the 20th C “men in white coats” rebranded.

Proposed solutions involve some practical means for improving the economic conditions afflicting working people and the poor

West Somerset need no longer live in the shadow of the nuclear industry, taking the council-issued Potassium Iodide tablets and fearing job losses, because, as Theo Simon says, they could be provided in many other and better ways:

“If the only (relatively) benign option left is a renewables revolution, with all the measures that that will entail then that option is the one we must champion and that will be the one most likely to build up united pressure behind it as the climate crisis becomes more obvious to the majority of people. This is especially true if the solutions we are proposing also imply some practical means for improving the economic conditions afflicting working people and the poor. Our dual concerns of economic and environmental justice may then have a chance of being married together in the popular imagination, as they must be if there is to be any further human progress.

“But if we could ignite the political will to make that happen, then we could equally well direct that will to beginning a massive publicly funded and democratically directed Renewables Revolution in Britain instead. That also includes the R&D investment, the supergrid development and a total building insulation programme. This has the advantage of creating a lot of meaningful work and a friendlier society as its by-products rather than CO2 or future radioactive hazards.”

Simon ends with:

One life-affirming way to deal with despair: rage, weep and thump the pillows, put the whisky bottle out of reach, re-assess your thinking, and then figure out who your allies are and start to make a plan. I know that, notwithstanding the nuclear debate, you are already engaged in this work. If everyone who read our debate did the same we would be well on the way to salvaging a future for life”.

Read the whole correspondence here:

 

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Posted on October 11, 2012, in Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Lobbying, Vested interests and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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