Thank you for your reply. As I understand it by making nuclear waste disposal a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project the local councils will have the same kind of input as you have had to the Committee meeting about this ie None. Unless, that is, you have been selected. In the case of the Committee meeting the careful selection was done by the whips. Who knows who will be choosing the ways and means of the fig leaf “positive test of public support.” The normal checks and balances of democracy will have been wiped away by undemocratic NSIP. Normal rules of planning are voided by NSIP. There would be no public inquiry and no meaningful scrutiny or debate from full council meetings. The fig leaf of “positive test of public support” would be followed by the final decision being made by the Secretary of State with a predetermined government agenda to “implement geological disposal.”
It is meaningless to say this is “not site specific.” Only Cumbria is in the frame.
Making nuclear dumping NSIP is an abuse of Cumbria (or any other community who comes forward – how likely is that?) and it will take place in the next day or two in another carefully selected Committee with no press coverage or ability by the public to influence the outcome. The only press coverage we have seen on this is the excellent open letter from Dr Becky Martin to Baroness Worthington published in the Ecologist (below). We are about to be stitched up while all eyes are diverted elsewhere.
Please Please reconsider your stance to do nothing. Please do everything within your power to stop this abuse of power.
On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland
LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE ECOLOGIST TO BARONESS WORTHINGTON BY DR BECKY MARTIN
Dear Bryony – don’t dump your nuclear waste on us!
Dr Becky Martin
12th March 2013
The ‘environmentalist’ peer Baroness Worthington argued last week in the House of Lords for local authorities to be stripped of their powers to refuse the dumping of radioactive waste in their areas. Geneticist Becky Martin takes her to task in this Open Letter.
You have risen to a position of great power. You stood in the Moses room as someone who is known for their actions in protecting the environment, and damned it by championing nuclear power and nuclear waste dumping.
Dear Baroness Worthington,
I watched on in horror as you championed the removal of local authority’s right to decide over the disposal of nuclear waste in their communities.
I didn’t know who you were at the time, and your position of the matter left me thinking perhaps you were a stakeholder in some nuclear power supply chain company.
I was dismayed to learn that you used to be a key member of Friends of the Earth. Further research shows that you have a background in environmentalism and appear on the surface to be concerned with climate change.
So I ask myself, why would someone with your background be a champion of nuclear power? And why would you champion the disposal of nuclear waste underground at levels where groundwater circulates?
And why would you want this done without allowing the full scrutiny of councillors and planning officers? Why would you prefer to remove power from locally elected representatives and place decisions in the hands of one person, creating a potentially corruptible situation?
Nuclear power is not low carbon!
Nuclear power is not a low carbon energy source. There is a wide range of data on the carbon footprint of nuclear waste, much of which is industry rhetoric. Benjamin Sovacool’s review found the average carbon footprint of nuclear power to be 66 gCO2/KWh, breaching the Committee on Climate Change’s recommended limits. Keith Barnham’s article in The Ecologist has more detail:
The fact is the carbon cost of decommissioning and waste handling is difficult to estimate – and if Sellafield’s soaraway clean-up budget is anything to go by, carbon costs as well as financial ones could spiral.
Building geological disposal facilities to handle waste would not necessarily reduce these costs. Vitrification and construction are not low carbon pursuits. What would the carbon cost of a water contamination event be? The human cost would be far greater.
Then there is the issue of uranium mining, a carbon-costly enterprise. As this finite source depletes, ever lower quality of uranium ore will be sought, further increasing the energy required to extract the uranium, and raising the carbon price tag.
Fast breeder reactors technologies that could avoid some of the uranium ore issues have been tried, at enormous cost – and repeatedly failed due to intractable technological hurdles and monstrous expense, while their purported advantages in reducing long-lived nuclear waste have been hugely over-hyped.
Moreover despite bullish promises by the nuclear industry and its cheerleaders, for example over Hitachi’s Prism design, they do not exist – and probably never will.
As for the ‘molten salt’ thorium reactor technology you espouse, it is fraught with most of the same issues as any other nuclear fission technology.
And thanks to serious and possibly unsolvable technological difficulties, it’s a very long way of becoming a practical reality. Any large scale deployment is at least half a century away – by which time low cost renewables will surely dominate the world’s power supply, and it will be completely redundant.
Finite investment funds must go into renewables!
The amount of subsidies the government wishes to funnel into the greedy jaws of nuclear power is quite frightening, locking us into ridiculous contracts for decades and guaranteeing fuel poverty in the future.
Who knows what the energy market will look like in ten, twenty years? Yet energy consumers may be having to pay inflation-proofed subsidies for Hinkley Point C – if it’s ever built – to 2060 and beyond!
If renewable technology received the proper support – and that includes people like you ceasing to defend the nuclear industry that is threatening to grab almost all the UK’s ‘low carbon’ energy funding – we could be online to meet our carbon targets.
Cheerleading for new builds that take years to get off the ground, even if you do believe they are low carbon – in the face evidence that clearly suggests otherwise – could delay action on climate change that should be happening right now, but is being deliberately starved of funds.
What if those nuclear energy subsidies were instead promised to the solar, wind, tidal, anaerobic digestion and retrofitting industries? Wouldn’t that be a far better way to tackle climate change?
There’s nothing ‘natural’ about fission products!
But back to radioactive waste, which is a sticky issue. We have to deal with what we have, but most environmentalists and humanitarians agree that adding to that pile is madness. Why would someone with your credentials think otherwise?
You have risen to a position of great power. You stood in the Moses room as someone who is known for their actions in protecting the environment, and damned it by championing nuclear power and nuclear waste dumping and stressing that it was a nationally significant issue that extends beyond the lifetimes of the people living in the area.
You spoke about a pendulum of nuclear regulation and how radiation is ‘natural’. Background radiation is natural. Mining ores, processing, enriching etc, is most definitely not natural. Even less so are the myriad fission products emitted by nuclear power plants, concentrated in spent nuclear fuel, and discharged during fuel reprocessing – and comparing the two through insinuation is both wrong and immoral.
How is reducing regulation ever a good move for protecting public health and safety?
You may be thinking right now that I am part of a public that is somewhat hysterical about radiation and its effects. I have a PhD in cancer biology and have studied the response of cells to irradiation.
I’m not frightened of a bit of background radiation, but I do have grave concerns about burying highly radioactive nuclear waste underground where it has to stay isolated for hundreds of thousands of years, without any of it ending up in our water supplies.
The one thing we know for certain about deep hydrogeology is that we don’t know all that much about it. How can you guarantee the safety of our water supplies, and those of our children and their descendants? I suggest you read the ‘Rock Solid?‘ review produced by GeneWatch on behalf of Greenpeace on geological disposal if you have not done so already.
I also very concerned about climate change, and quite aside from the radioactive waste issue, I am opposed to nuclear new builds due to their carbon emission consequences.
I would urge you to rethink your position on nuclear new builds and geological disposal on both pragmatic and ethical grounds.
Note: Baroness (Bryony) Worthington, a Labour peer, spoke in the House of Lords debate on the Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015.
Dr Becky Martin earned her PhD at the Institute of Genetics, University of Nottingham and went on to work at the University of Oxford studying DNA repair gene expression in bladder cancer for three years. She is now a full time mother and environmental campaigner, and blogs here. Together with several other mothers she co-founded the group No Geo Nuke Dumping @NoNukeDumping.
LETTER FROM TIM FARRON to Radiation Free Lakeland – 12 MARCH 2015
Our Ref: Birk004/48/ag
12 March 2015
Thank you very much for your recent email with regard to the meeting of the House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee to consider the Draft Infrastructure
Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015.
I am not a member of this Committee and so it would not have been possible for me to
speak or vote on its business. From my perusal of the contents of the meeting, it
seems to me that this could have been another false alarm from 38 degrees but I am pleased to report that my colleague, Tessa Munt MP, attended to seek clarification on the issues that you have raised. This led the Minister to give the following assurances in her closing speech to the Committee: –
“The hon. Lady will have heard me say that this is not about site specifics. I am,
of course, aware of the example she gave, but this is about providing the overall framework, not discussing individual sites. I reassure her and the hon. Member for Chippenham that local authorities will be in no way excluded from the decision-making process.
Such a characterisation would be wrong.
The final development consent process does not replace the need for an open process to identify potential sites in the first place. The 2014 “Implementing Geological Disposal” White Paper is clear that the final decision to apply for development consent and regulatory approval for a GDF will not be taken until, and unless, there is a positive test of public support at the site in question.”
With best wishes
TIM FARRON MP