Monday, 14 March 2016

Return to the Planet of the Apes

Letter sent to the Times:
I read with despair the article by your industrial editor on latest opportunistic lobbying effort  from the atomic power enthusiasts (apes) ("Small nuclear reactors 'are the future',"  14 March,

The Small Modular Reactors (SMR) being backed by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) are in fact  untried prototype technologies, of which there are currently around 50 different designs globally, some of which were  showcased at the UK SMR  Summit last October.

At the summit, Westinghouse’s roving global chief, Jeff Benjamin, vice president for new plants and major projects unveiled his company’s plans to offer the UK government a partnership in the deployment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, “a move that would advance the UK from being a buyer to a global provider of the latest nuclear energy technology, According to a Westinghouse statement. The proposal is intended to complement the current Phase 2 SMR study that the UK government has recently commenced. 

But SMRs produce radioactive waste, just as the large GW-sized plants do, for which there is no current technical or political solution for long term management. Moreover, even assuming planning permission  could be secured for the dozens of new nuclear plants on greenfield sites that NAMRC apparently advocates, which I very much doubt, this proliferation of sites  would massively increase a nuclear security problem which we are already  failing to resolve with current reactor fleet
I just returned from a four day convention of the European Environment Foundation (www.european-environment-foundation.euin Freiburg, Germany  where I presented a paper on 'nuclear's insecurities' to 70 globally awarded environmental laureates, raising the question why policy makers and atomic advocates  seem determined to put their heads in the sand rather than address the increasing challenge from nuclear terrorism,
The Washington Post thankfully has addressed this in an important  leading article, A lingering nuclear threat ( 13 March)
It concludes:  "A detailed index published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative shows tangible progress was achieved between 2012 and 2014, but since then efforts have stalled, due to political issues that have diverted attention, bureaucratic inertia, lack of resources and cultural factors. None of these are going away any time soon."
The Post is right.




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