Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/868/21337
From The Socialist newspaper, 2 September 2015
Nuclear Secrets: a dangerous dead end
Nuclear warning, photo by Nicolas Raymond (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Geoff Jones reviews the BBC4 TV programme Britain's Nuclear Secrets - Inside Sellafield (on iPlayer until 10 September)
In what was obviously intended as a positive story on the nuclear industry, respected physicist Jim Al-Khalili took a camera crew into the nuclear complex at Sellafield in Cumbria. Even though he supports nuclear power, what he showed was scary to say the least, while what he omitted was even worse.
Sellafield, originally called Windscale, was set up in 1947 to produce plutonium to build the UK's very own nuclear deterrent. Nuclear reactors for 'peaceful' electricity generation only arrived in 1956. However, by 1957 a massive fire in one Windscale reactor spewed radioactive material over the surrounding countryside. The fire was mentioned, but not that this reactor still contains 15 tons of highly radioactive material.
We were shown 'storage ponds', open ponds of water containing nuclear waste and radioactive sludge. In 50 years at least 21 serious incidents have involved leakage of radioactive material. But even with perfect containment, radioactive waste remains highly dangerous for tens of thousands of years.
One issue hardly got a mention - in the 1980s the government had the bright idea of reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear reactors around the world into usable reactor fuel. The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) facility finally came into operation in 1997 at a cost of £1.8 billion. Other countries were happy to send us their old fuel rods, but not to take back the processed fuel - Sellafield became the world's nuclear dustbin.
Reprocessed material is rendered into thousands of 'stable' glass disks, but these continue to generate heat and must be cooled. A safe long-term solution is yet to be found.
What emerged from Al-Khalili's account is that Sellafield is a long-running disaster, costing over £12.6 billion a year (not mentioned). In addition, the various schemes to 'clean up' the site are projected to cost around £80 billion. Conclusion? Nuclear power as a source of energy is an expensive, dangerous dead end.
Donate to the Socialist Party
Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal
The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.
The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.
The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.
- The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
- Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
- When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.
In The Socialist 2 September 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Killed by benefit cuts
Made-up benefit sanction quotes: Tory lies no surprise to us
Two million bailiff calls as councils brutalise poor
Bin crash tragedy shows pressure on sick to work
Greed: bosses hike rail fares three times faster than wages
Them & Us
"Unapologetic attack on austerity" at Southampton Corbyn rally
Socialist Party reports & campaigns
Nottinghamshire: don't close our mental health unit
Lincolnshire: save our schools!
Anger as promised women's museum becomes Ripper museum
International socialist news and analysis
Thailand plagued by military junta and downturn
International news in brief
Socialist Party features
Corbyn campaign: surges, purges and preparation
Youth Fight Austerity
Students attacked from all sides
Zimmerwald Conference 1915: lessons for the socialist movement
Workplace news and analysis
Join the NSSN lobby of TUC Congress
Rail and PCS strikers rally together
London tube workers force bosses to move
Royal Mail union rep sacked - reinstate John now!
'Pay the rate' construction protests continue on Teesside
Bioscientists' strike forces management's climbdown
Indesit strikers determined to press on for acceptable deal
Workplace news in brief
Socialist Party comments and reviews
Rejected by Labour bureaucrats
Nuclear Secrets: a dangerous dead end
Obituary: Anne Ullah Khan
The Socialist 2 September 2015 |
Join the Socialist
| Audio | PDF | ebook