Friday, 14 February 2020

Challenging the atomic incumbency

Here are two more letters to the Western Mail newspaper of Wales, and the London Times:

On the BBC Wales web site today (14th February) its Welsh business correspondent Brian Meechan runs an article that appears to be uncritically based on copious briefing provided by the pr  team of nuclear company Rolls Royce.

It suffers from many errors if omission.

Meechan purports to set out the case for bringing the first of a new generation of,  as yet untried,  experimental so- called “Small Modular Reactors” (SMRs) to the nuclear site at Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia, taking advantage of an area used to nuclear power, and with some skilled staff from the shutdown old “ Magnox” still around.

Although the “S” in SMR stands for small, while the reactor  module itself may be relatively small compared to the giant reactors being built at Hinkley, barely 20 miles from Wales in North Somerset, the necessary associated turbine generating sets to convert the heat to electricity are very large.

But most important, SMRs provide unique targets for terrorists to disrupt both power supplies, and destabilise the local community. Why so?

Because the salespeople first SMRs like to show images of sleek shiny plants with no or virtually no site protection against malevolent “ bad guys.
Anyone with a shoulder-held grenade launcher could fire a devastating high-energy deep-penetrator projectile into the heart of the reactor from just yards away. Astonishing, but true.
It is a mirage of safety and security offered by RR.

Why did the BBC not ask any penetrating questions themselves?

I was really surprised you afforded space in your letters columns The embittered communication from Lord Hutton of Furness  (“Labour’s failings,”  Feb 14).
As successively  Business Secretary - with responsibility for energy policy- and Defence Secretary, Lord Hutton was responsible for promoting two of the most expensive national infrastructure projects, nuclear new build and the Trident nuclear weapons renewal programme.

The costs of both have escalated stratospherically:  a  nuclear power plant is estimated to cost at least £25,000,000,000 per plant; the cost to the taxpayer for Trident renewal over its operational life is currently calculated to be some £205,000,000,000.

I think as Labour choses its new leader, and in time formulates new policies to mount an effective challenge to the incumbent Tory administration, the last person the leadership should listen to is a discredited, failed former Labour grandee.

Lord Hutton  now chairs the Nuclear Industry Association Libby group and the Royal United Services Institute think tank as a reward for his nuclear promotions as a minister.

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