The following article was first published on Sisco Media 29th January 2017…
Question: Is it possible that by shining a light on nuclear we could also scupper fracking?
Eyes on Fylde Fracking AND Nuclear
In October the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, overruled a decision by Lancashire County Council and said that Cuadrilla could frack at Little Plumpton, near Preston against the wishes of the local council. Fracking campaigners are now bravely taking non-violent direct action on the front line. Cuadrilla’s plan is to drill down thousands of feet into the rock and take samples prior to full on fracking. Anti-nuclear campaigners have also fought fracking these last few years, for very good reason. The government halted all onshore fracking operations in 2011 over concerns at earth tremors after fracking at the Preese Hall site in Lancashire, which were attributed to Cuadrilla’s operations there. Preese Hall is six miles away from the world’s first and probably biggest nuclear fuel production plant, Springfields in Preston. Little Plumpton is a mere five miles away.
Proximity of Nuclear Fuel Plant to Frack Sites
In October 2014 architect Maureen Kelly wrote to the then Energy and Climate Change Minister, Edward Davey, to raise concerns regarding the proximity of fracking sites to nuclear establishments and requested that no fracking sites be located within 50 miles of any nuclear establishment. Cuadrilla’s proposed frack site of Little Plumpton is just 5.33 miles from Springfields nuclear fuel fabrication plant.
Radioactive Risks of Fracking and Nuclear
At Little Plumpton, back in 2014 when the site was being eyed-up by the fracking industry, anti-nuclear campaigners joined with anti-fracking campaigners in a protest camp. There were even art and science workshops on the radioactive risks of fracking and nuclear. Of these two extreme energy industries, Jonathon Porritt has commented:
“Anyone serious about a genuinely sustainable energy strategy for the UK should be as implacably opposed to fracking as they are to the idea of new nuclear power stations. When these twin horrors of our wholly unsustainable energy legacy are put together, in close juxtaposition, we should all be up in arms.”
Deep down in the earth where Cuadrilla plan to frack for shale gas at Little Plumpton there’s a lot of radioactivity. The technical term is NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM). The decay of Thorium 232 and Uranium 238 to Radon, Radium and Polonium, drives the earth’s natural processes, but it’s best left in the ground where it belongs.
Nuclear Power meanwhile deliberately mines the earth’s most radioactive material for fuel. All the links in the nuclear fuel chain generate radionuclides of a kind and scale not seen in nature. The releases increase when the reactor is refuelled, or when accidents happen. Releases to air include Tritium, Americium, Krypton, Xenon and Radioactive Carbon. Releases to water and air from Sellafield reprocessing include Plutonium, Cesium, Technetium and Strontium 90.
No Independent Monitoring of Radioactive Emissions
In 2015 Radiation Free Lakeland wrote to all members of Lancashire’s Development Control Committee urging them to oppose the two applications for fracking in Lancashire at Little Plumpton and at Roseacre Wood, both within spitting distance of the Springfields Nuclear Fabrication plant near Preston. RaFL’s letter said:
“Both Lancashire and Cumbria already have an intolerable burden of accumulating radioactive wastes from the nuclear industry without adding fracking wastes to the mix. People in Cumbria and Lancashire ask that these two county councils get together to reinstate independent radiation monitoring. There is already an escalation of risk to the public with:
- Proposed accelerated imports of Uranium Hexaflouride for new nuclear reactors.
- Uranium Enrichment at Capenhurst in Cheshire Capenhurst in Cheshire
- Fuel manufacture at Springfields in Preston Fuel Manufacture at Springfields
- At each stage there is dispersal of radioactive waste to the environment: to air, to landfill to watercourses eg the River Ribble
“We ask that Lancashire County Council take responsibility and
- Refuse all applications for fracking
- Reintroduce independent radioactive monitoring in Lancashire of the kind Lancashire County Council (Radiation Monitoring in Lancashire) did up until it was scrapped due to Council cuts a few years ago.”
To their credit Lancashire County Council did listen and take on board the warnings and opposition from local people and stopped Cuadrilla in their tracks. For this decision then to be overturned by the Communities Secretary is reprehensible.
Our request for the reintroduction of radiation monitoring was dismissed.
Andrew Smith, BSc., PhD., M.Chem.A., C.Sci., C.Chem., M.R.S.C. from Lancashire County Council County Scientific Service stated:
“The decision to discontinue radiation monitoring was taken about three years ago by the Lancashire Chief Environmental Health Officers group. This was mainly due to budgetary pressure and the recognition that the background levels of radiation were very well established. It was also decided that the remaining equipment would be held by Lancashire County Scientific Services and maintained in good working order in case it might assist in the recovery phase of an nuclear incident. As the pressures on budgets have not eased I cannot see RADMIL being reinstated in the foreseeable future.”
Virtual Black Out
The explorative (in the UK) fracking industry’s dangerous credentials have been well spotlighted by NGOs for several years. Meanwhile over the same period the long entrenched nuclear industry has been gearing up its activity in a virtual blackout. Many of the young fracking activists at the Preston New Road 2014 protest camp had never heard of Springfields (five miles away) or Sellafield – the front and back end of the nuclear chain. At the front end, Uranium is ripped out of the ground in eg. Peru, Kazakhstan, Canada and Africa.
Martyn Lowe of Close Capenhurst Close Capenhurst tells us that “boats send this dangerous raw material of uranium to Urenco at Capenhurst in Cheshire, to be enriched (near proposed fracking sites ).” Enriched uranium is then taken in the form of an incredibly dangerous gas Uranium Hexaflouride on to Springfields, near Preston, where it is turned from gas to powder and so on into fuel rods. The Springfields site has said that:
“Processing several thousand tonnes of uranium a year, UK Fuel Business, based at Springfields has the experience and technology to manufacture fuel for all major designs of nuclear reactor across the globe. UK Fuel Business has produced fuel for all of Britain’s nuclear power stations as well as fuel and intermediate uranium products for overseas customers”.
A Big Deal
This incredibly dangerous activity is set to explode at Springfields with the plan to provide untested “high burn” fuel for “dangerous” and “not-fit-for-purpose” new reactors. The operators of Springfields, Westinghouse (bought out by the financially downward-spiralling Toshiba ) have signed a 150-year lease with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Maybe it is no accident that there is a lack of attention being directed to the first plant in the world to make nuclear fuel also being the first place in the North West to be under direct threat of fracking. Inevitably, waste from Springfield’s spent fuel, once burned in reactors, will end up at Sellafield “reprocessing” site . Here profligate amounts of fossil fuel are used: over £30M a year on gas.
Shine a Light on Nuclear to Stop Fracking in the UK?
The reasons to shine a light on the nuclear industry are many, not least the certain danger posed to us all by the prospect of increased seismic activity in this area of the North West which houses Sellafield, Trident, Heysham, Springfields and Capenhurst. Maybe it is a very good time for mainstream NGOs to look to their anti-nuclear roots in the UK, and to shine the media light on nuclear.
You never know, in the process this might just put the much needed brakes on both fracking AND the nuclear industry
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