Fukushima, Fracking and Nuclear in the Uk


Dragon Trailz blogger has written an excellent article which asks us to think about hidden from view connections   The article is reposted here with kind permission.

Fukushima, Fracking and Nuclear in the UK – a toxic brew.

March 11th was the 6th anniversary of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster – the planet’s worst nuclear accident to date. Fukushima and the Chernobyl catastrophe, which occurred at Pripyat in Ukraine in 1986, are the only two accidents classified as level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Many are unaware how bad the fallout from Fukushima has been to date. Since the initial burst of news that followed the earthquake and tsunami that led to the catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi, the crisis has been under-reported here in the UK and in Japan, as Shinzo Abe’s government have carefully controlled the media narrative, even going so far to say that the fear of radiation and the evacuations are causing stress and deaths, not the radiation itself. There is even a word for this, radiophobia! People are being told that it’s safe to live in areas with recordings of 20 milliSieverts a year. By comparison, in Chernobyl areas between 1-5 mSv/yr were evacuated. Before Fukushima, the law considered 1mSv/yr to be the maximum exposure limit in Japan.

Meanwhile, hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water a day continue to leak into the Pacific Ocean, while nuclear debris is disposed into black plastic bags, that stretch out and pile up along the coast and around schools and houses. The intention is to find a more permanent home for this waste by 2020 and wrap up the clean up before the Tokyo Olympics that year. However, that date does look symbolic and optimistic. Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, who is based in Japan, has described the task ahead as “unprecedented and almost beyond comprehension” and that plans to decommission the plant were “never realistic or credible”.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), who own the site have attempted to surround the site with an ice wall – salt water cooled to -30C to a depth of 30m, passing through pipes underground, which freeze the soil around them. However, fissures in the porous bedrock allow the deadly contamination to continue to leak into the ocean. Around 900,000 tonnes of toxic water remain in tanks on site, with no clear strategy of how to process or dispose of it. The continuing ecological catastrophe should have rang alarm bells within the UK establishment and forced us onto a more sensible path.
However, the UK government’s crazed future energy strategy seems to revolve around nuclear power, alongside fracked oil and gas that will be obtained on land, as coal is slowly wound down and North Sea hydrocarbon reserves are becoming harder and more expensive to extract. Indeed fracking and nuclear appear to be inextricably linked. The connections become more apparent when one considers their roles within the wider military industrial complex, which includes nuclear weapons and oil to power the war machine. We may not be obviously at war, but UK weapons exports are a huge industry, we maintain a large army and there are hidden, covert wars you don’t see. Only a small fraction of British military activity in the Middle East is currently reported by mainstream media. Trident is itself up for renewal and there appears to be very little political opposition to another phase of nuclear warheads, submarines and other infrastructure that does not ensure our safety.
Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site is only 5 miles from the Springfields nuclear site, at Salwick near Kirkham, which has been operational since 1946. The site was the first in the world to produce nuclear fuel for a commercial nuclear reactor. This site at Calder Hall in Cumbria later incorporated Windscale and we now refer to it as Sellafield. It’s no longer a functioning nuclear power plant, but the land around the site remains highly contaminated with radionuclides and requires a gas-powered power station to cool the hot waste that remains to a safe temperature. Springfields makes nuclear fuels (including uranium hexafluoride) and processes nuclear waste. Decommissioning and demolition of pre-existing buildings at the plant is ongoing. Toshiba Westinghouse who own the site, constructed the reactors at Fukushima.
You may have heard rumblings that industry and government are considering disposing nuclear waste into old onshore oil/gas wells.
This of course sounds like lunacy but it’s not just hearsay. Fracking will produce many more of these wells and history has shown us that governments and the nuclear industry have no clear strategy for safe waste reprocessing and disposal. Neither do the Conservative government or the extreme energy industry have a clear strategy for getting rid of their own frack-waste. In the UK, waste water has ended up in the Manchester ship canal and INEOS have stated they are considering using the North Sea as a dumping ground. In the USA, produced water, that flows back up the well after fracking (a toxic mix of water, sand, polycyclic organic/aromatic compounds, heavy metals and radioactive isotopes), has been re-injected into old wells. This in turn has caused quakes and tremors by a process geologists call induced seismicity, notably in the state of Oklahoma, where there has been a huge increase in earthquakes. Tremors caused by fracking at the Preese Hall site on the Fylde in Lancashire, caused Cuadrilla’s operations to be suspended for one year in 2011 and damaged some residents homes.
On the Fylde, where fracking is now a very real threat, the underground rock is a mixture of limestone and shale, which is very water permeable. Much of the low/intermediate risk nuclear waste gets buried near the surface at nuclear sites which tends to leach slowly into the ground. The risk of contamination of the water depends how water permeable the ground is. Any underground disruption due to fracking or induced seismicity could increase the chances of existing radioactive material at the Springfields site spreading to a wider area. Tremors could also cause buildings at the nuclear site to become damaged, causing a radioactive leak. Any earthquake or tremor near a nuclear site, could have unforeseen consequences.
There is no solution to the waste from destructive, toxic industrial processes such as nuclear power and those undertaken by the extreme energy industry. Fracking waste water, as I’ve noted, itself becomes radioactive, once naturally occurring isotopes trapped in the ground, are released by hydraulic fracturing at pressure.
It does make you wonder. If we knew about Fukushima, fracking and earthquakes in 2011, why did our government decide to continue down this road? Co-locating nuclear and fracking/onshore drill sites is clearly a terrible idea – something only fools would conjure. Only a reckless government would allow big business to pollute our water and land in this way. Anti-nuclear and frack free campaigners need to synergize their efforts to stop this dual threat.