Monday, 8 July 2013

Nuclear Numpties

Last Saturday Liberal Democrat energy Secretary Ed Davey told the Guardian (“Ed Davey 'will not give an inch' on nuclear power price,” 6 July) . “So many environmentalists have changed their views [on nuclear] because of the threat of climate change and the fact that nuclear is low-carbon….” and consolidated his conversion to nuclear power with his announcement that EDF Electricité de France SA (EDF.FR) would be given guarantees of up to £10bn to underwrite the loans to build the proposed plant at Hinkley Point C, so making the project more attractive to third-party investors and reducing the impact on EDF's balance sheet.
But in the past few months there have a been a series of  disturbing and frankly bizarre stories about this technology the energy secretary  now wants to massively subsidise to ensure it is resurrected in the UK.
Two weeks ago it was revealed by documents released under a Freedom of Information  Act application that that Police officers with the elite force that guards Britain’s nuclear power stations have been caught drunk, using drugs, misusing firearms and also accused of sexual harassment and assault. (“Safety fears over elite police officers drunk on duty at UK’s nuclear sites,” Independent, Thursday 27 June 2013,
A few weeks earlier it was reported that some find  nuclear reactors safe enough to live in them, not people, but birds. The BBC reported that Peregrine falcon chicks have hatched on the roof of a closed nuclear reactor at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, two months after their parents decided it was a good place to nest.  (“Peregrine falcon chicks hatch on Essex nuclear reactor,” BBC on line news, 19 June 2013,

But in the United States it was not birds, but Goldfish that were discovered living inside the Perry nuclear power plant, owned by FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio.  At the beginning of May it was reported in the Cleveland New Dealer newspaper that two goldfish were discovered by workers taking apart scaffolding in the tunnel, which is locked and under constant video surveillance. The fish, which later died, had been swimming in a lemonade pitcher that contained reactor water. Both the fish and the water were slightly radioactive. (“Perry nuclear power plant's goldfish owners still unidentified,” May 14, 2013, One nuclear critic, David Lochbaum, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety project.wryly observed: "Goldfish are not authorized to be inside the tunnel, yet they were there. And Perry cannot determine how they got there or who put them there. What if it hadn't have been goldfish but a bomb?”

Back in Britain, a month ago, bombs were indeed found at a nuclear site. (“ Bomb find ends with a big bang”,

Whitehaven News, 6 June 2013, The local newspaper  unveiled the  potentially explosive situation when  bomb disposal experts were called to the low  level  radioactive waste  disposal site at Drigg, a few miles south of Sellafield in Cumbria,  after more than 100 unexploded shells were found washed up, creating a mile-wide exclusion zone along the shore, which  had  been popular with local dog walkers.
Experts from the Northern Diving Group, based at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, gathered the shells and pieces together and carried out controlled explosions. The majority of material was comprised of 12 and 18-inch shells, having been dumped there after World War II, the newspaper reported
Other odd stuff swept in from the sea disrupted another nuclear plant in Scotland in May. (“Seaweed stops Scottish EDF nuclear plant,“ 24 May  2013,  

Reuters reported that a rising tide of seaweed halted  the Torness nuclear power station, east of Scottish capital city, Edinburgh, threatening to clog up its cooling system. The plant’s owners,
EDF Energy took both reactors at the site offline at its 1,280MW  nuclear plant, due to what an EDF spokesperson described as “increased seaweed levels as a result of the severe weather and sea conditions in the area." An EDF statement said power plant staff are trained to deal with high seaweed levels resulting from weather conditions in the Forth Estuary, and that the plant can be taken offline if there are signs that the cooling system could be affected. Two years earlier, the same plant was forced to shut down after large numbers of jellyfish were found in the sea water entering the plant.  

And finally it emerged earlier this year in California that a Star Trek movie spoof had  been filmed three years ago inside an operating nuclear plant (Star Trek’ Spoof at Nuclear Power Plant, ABC television,  23 May 2013, In a weird tape, nuclear operatives had gone  where no such operatives had  gone before, as dressed in  full Federation uniforms, several executives and line employees at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,  or SONGS,  in Pendleton, made their tape  called  “SONGS TREK” right inside the nuclear station’s training facility ABC’s San Diego affiliate KGTV reported.
Is this the brave new energy future our brave energy minister is leading us towards?

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