Friday, 3 April 2020

Questioning nuclear myopia

Two as  yet unpublished letters:
To The Guardian:
I thought it was a brilliant April Fool to insert a set of spoof answers on nuclear power from the three Labour leadership candidates in your on-line article covering their views on 17 environmental areas (“What are Labour leadership candidates' green policies?”, The Guardian,1 April 2020;  
How could we expect that not just one, but all three- Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey Keir Starmer - would say they support more new nuclear power stations after Hinkley C is completed.

It is fanciful to think RLB would have said something as silly as she “ supported new nuclear power where it is needed for the UK’s future energy security.”

Or that Lisa Nandy could ever say something as ill-founded  right in the middle of a climate emergency – is not the time we should rule out a role for nuclear power or any other low-emission technology, ” (even if she apparently recognised the cost and radioactive waste problems of nuclear.)

And Sir Keir could never have said something as neanderthal as insisting  he “supported the Labour position that nuclear power is part of the mix of moving away from fossil fuels,” could he?

This whole story is far too implausible! But a good try.
To The Times:
Your report in the business section (“Ordering site closures could bring roof down on construction companies, warn officials," The Times,  1st April 2020) rightly highlighted the tricky dilemma facing Business and Energy  Secretary, Alok Sharma, in balancing keeping some construction activity going without exacerbating the Coronavirus crisis.
All construction to help the current NHS capacity crisis surely must continue happen. But other construction sites need to justify their need to stay open
One such site is the giant nuclear construction complex at Hinkley Point C (HPC, near Bridgwater in north Somerset) where a £24 billion new plant is being built.
On 25 March, the Daily Mail printed a photograph whose caption states it is taken in the workers' canteen at Hinkley Point. Diners are packed together, cheek by jowl, with absolutely no spacing.
Why had the safety authorities at Hinkley permitted this gross violation of Governmental guidance on coronavirus safety practice to take place in one of the most sensitive sites of critical national infrastructure, despite many pleas from the Prime Minister, Health Secretary and other ministers?
The chief nuclear inspector, Mark Foy, at the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) told me in an email shortly after:
“It is ONR’s understanding that HPC has been advised by HM government that it is regarded as Critical National Infrastructure and as such, can remain open.”
Other reported (and photographed) avoidable risks have included un-spaced and disorderly queuing to enter plant via security controls in the morning and jostling to get on works buses in the evening.
HPC owner, NNB-EDFhave made modifications, announced on 1st April, but not enough.
Local group, the Stop Hinkley (SH) campaign, loudly announced that it was horrified that the 4,000-strong workforce at the HPC construction site was set to continue working during the Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ effecting the rest of the UK. SH spokesperson Katy Attwater said:
“This is putting lives at risk right across Somerset and the whole of the country. Why hasn’t the Prime Minister ordered them to stay at home – is he just pandering to the nuclear lobby?”
That is the correct question: what is the answer?

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