Wednesday, 23 September 2020
Educators should not promote fake news on climate benefits of nuclear power
Letter submitted to East Anglian Daily Times newspaper: I was very interested to read your article on “Suffolk business and education leaders write to PM urging Sizewell C go-ahead,” (EADT, 22 September 2020; https://www.eadt.co.uk/business/business-and-education-leaders-supporting-sizewell-c-1-6848825) reporting that 30 Suffolk business and education leaders have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the government to recognise the “urgency” of approving the Sizewell C project. Their letter reportedly states, inter alia, that the 30 said they wanted to highlight their “support for Sizewell C and the opportunity it offers to tackle the climate emergency and progress to ‘Net Zero.’” The signatories include Nikos Savvas, principal, West Suffolk College; Viv Gillespie, principal, Suffolk New College; Professor Helen Langton, vice-chancellor, University of Suffolk; Stuart Rimmer, principal and CEO, East Coast College; Daniel Mayhew, headteacher, Alde Valley Academy; Philip Hurst, headteacher, Thomas Mills, Framlingham;and Roger Fern, chair of governors, Suffolk New College. I was very surprised to read senior educators putting their name publicly to demonstrably inaccurate information. It should be very concerning to parents that local students will be influenced by such false arguments. Nuclear power will not provide any useful dent in curbing harmful emissions, as when the carbon footprint of its full uranium ‘fuel chain’ is considered- from uranium mining, milling, enrichment ( which is highly energy intensive), fuel fabrication, irradiation, radioactive waste conditioning, storage, packaging to final disposal – nuclear power's CO2 emissions are between 10 to 18 times greater than those from renewable energy technologies, according to a recent study by Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, California. (https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/ReviewSolGW09.pdf) In an international webinar held on September 11th by the global nuclear lobbying group, the World Nuclear Association, one nuclear industry leader, Jay Wileman, President and CEO of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy - the US arm of the Japanese corporation - no less than five times falsely described nuclear power as “carbon-free”, a mantra he clearly believes if repeated often enough will convince politicians and the public. It will not, and seems no longer even convinces the Board and chief finance officer of his parent company in Tokyo, as Hitachi has recently cancelled its involvement in new nuclear plants in North Wales (Wylfa) and Gloucestershire (Oldbury). An important new report collectively issued by six UK Parliamentary committees on 10 September, titled “The path to net zero”, prepared by a group of scientifically selected representative British citizens named the ‘Climate Assembly’ (https://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2020/september/climate-assembly-uk-new/) concluded after over six months detailed collaborative work that 46% of participants strongly disagreed nuclear could play a part towards reaching a net zero carbon economy by 2050, with a further 18% undecided. Amongst the reasons for the scepticism were “cost, safety, and issues around waste storage and decommissioning.” Local Suffolk educators should pay g heed to these arguments.