Pro-nuclear schmooze campaign

14 Jan

The UK’s pro-nuclear lobby are at it again http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-16509668 and also on Newstalk’s Sean Moncrieff’s afternoon show here in Ireland. Prof David Phillips (head of the Royal Society for Chemistry, not Physics or Engineering)

I see this as a not-too-subtle attempt to paint those of us who oppose further nuclear power stations (or the renewal of the existing ones) as illogical romantics. In this vein it is a well-trodden media tactic by the ‘scientific community’ who like to believe that ‘the general public’ do not understand science and are therefore incapable of coming to a balanced and rational opinion on complex issues and that the ‘media’ portrays science in a negative light.
Mind you when a ‘top scientist’ allows himself to be quoted making unsubstantiated and unscientific statements in this way then the ‘scientific establishment’ can hardly complain if we ‘laugh them out of court’.

Has he any proof to back his assertions? Have any surveys been done in the general public about where they got their views on the nuclear ‘industry’? Nope. He is merely giving his opinion and since he is a CHEMIST not a PSYCHOLOGIST, SOCIOLOGIST or SOCIAL SCIENTIST he should not be taken as an informed commentator. He is a LAY-PERSON in this instance (albeit a lay-person with scientific training but NOT in the field in which he is commenting.

In his interview on the Moncrieff program continued his assertion that an anti-nuclear stance was illogical whilst acknowledging the problem of waste storage – it is to be encased in non-reactive vessels and buried in ‘geologically stable’ locations (an impossibility in terms of Earth’s crustal mechanics)
Which brings me to one of my ‘illogical’ concerns: given the ability of the ‘fracking’ process to stimulate earthquakes in ‘stable’ areas e.g. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/8999677/Fracking-company-blamed-for-earthquakes-comes-to-the-Home-Counties.html are there any limits on how close to underground nuclear facilities ‘fracking’ licences will be granted?

I am a committed anti-nuclear power campaigner and make no bones about my opposition. Throughout my lifetime I have lived with fears of the ‘nuclear winter’ (spread by reputable analysts e.g. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11287-nuclear-winter-may-kill-more-than-a-nuclear-war.html) and whatever the claims of the pro-nuclear lobby nuclear power equates more often than not to nuclear weapons (for doubters: one word – IRAN).

Thorium power is a red herring since, in processes akin to the ‘resistance’ to alternative to oil, there are such large amounts of capital expenditure, scientific, engineering and lobbying expertise already committed to the existing nuclear industries that, rather like a supertanker, course changes are slow at best.

So why do scientists support the nuclear industry so loudly? Is is perhaps because it is ‘real’ science – it is particle physics, it involves chemists, metallurgists, engineers and systems designers in ‘cutting edge’ research – provides high prestige grants to any institution which is involved and receives ‘ring-fenced’ government funding?

Interestingly the one aspect of the whole ‘industry’ which never receives their attention is the day-to-day running of the nuclear power system. This has relevance because given that most people distrust their politicians and nuclear safety relies on efficient effective application of safety standards (and there is a valid argument to be made for the viewpoint that nuclear power has only made itself as safe as it currently is because of the opposition) by national bodies which, as the recent Japanese experience graphically demonstrates, are easily watered down or ignored. Just how safe is any nuclear power station?

Another facet of my opposition are the ‘mistruths’ and evasions which have characterized nuclear power in the UK during my lifetime (which coincidentally is much the same as the lifetime of the UK’s nuclear power programme).

It was sold as being cheap (which it is only if you IGNORE the decommissioning costs) – endless (which it isn’t – roughly 50 years of working life per station) and clean (which it is until something goes wrong or you want to reuse the site anytime soon). There have been no serious ‘events’ in the UK but that is not to imply that there couldn’t be in the future.
Alternative energy sources do not carry the risk of decades of contamination in the event of a failure.

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