Government seems to be determined to pursue a nuclear power policy which will leave future generations with a nuclear waste radiation legacy at least ten times greater than that we have inherited from the current Magnox, AGR and PWR programmes, the waste from which we still have no agreed long term management solution. In justifying the new build programme, government is required to brush aside the nuclear waste conundrum with the assurance that ‘arrangements for its management are in place’, a statement which is irresponsible and untrue.
What should we think of a government which has such disregard for its people as to press ahead with a programme of work when the poisonous, radioactive and lethal waste that programme will generate has no acceptable long term means of being dealt with? Government plans have already lead to the devastation of large areas of forest and infringement on protected areas. They will adversely alter the character of the areas in which the stations intend to be sited; they will threaten tens of thousands of people with the loss of their livelihoods and even of their lives in the event of a Fukushima-scale accident or deliberate terrorist attack which releases only a fraction of the radioactivity in the containment vessel or in a waste store.
Over the construction period of Sizewell C alone, it is estimated that there will be between 300 and 600 heavy goods vehicle journeys to and from the site along narrow country lanes and through sleepy Suffolk villages every day over the course of years. Road widening, park-and-ride areas, worker campuses and wholesale clearances of vegetation will fundamentally alter the character of the areas blighted by these proposed developments. The routine operation of a nuclear plant is giving greater cause for alarm as evidence grows over the effects of low level radiation exposure, especially in the case of children and the very young who are known to be far more radio-sensitive than adults. While the government trumpets its new-found green credentials by finally accepting an EU directive for deposits on plastic bags, the nuclear waste stockpile grows and gives the lie to nuclear as being ‘clean’ and the government as being ‘green’.
The tragedy is that nuclear is not an imperative, but a choice: that has been shown time and time again by work undertaken by anti-nuclear NGOs and university departments, think tanks and policy consultants. We can meet all our future electricity demands, climate change and cost targets without resorting to over-priced, dangerous and transgenerationally iniquitous nuclear. The reasons government chooses nuclear and why it rebuffs every challenge to its policy are unfathomable unless you believe that government has lost any sense of reason or if you believe it is so wedded to the idea of nuclear weapons that it feels obliged to retain and develop the nuclear skills base by committing this country to a future of white-elephant nuclear plants, mounting volumes of nuclear wastes with nowhere to go and hare-brained schemes for a small modular reactor on every housing estate in the country. We must forego the inexorable slide towards a plutonium economy and the dangerous future it will inevitably herald. The voices of the government’s critics must be heeded.
Chairman, Together Against Sizewell, Suffolk