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7 August 2018

Search site for keywords: Nuclear power - Waste - Energy - Socialist - Britain - Cumbria - Sellafield

Flamanville nuclear power plant in France is beset by safety and funding problems, and uses the same untested technology as Hinkley C, photo schoella (Creative Commons)

Flamanville nuclear power plant in France is beset by safety and funding problems, and uses the same untested technology as Hinkley C, photo schoella (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

No to Tory plans for radioactive waste under national parks

Geoff and Kate Jones, Swansea Socialist Party

A new Tory plan could see tons of highly dangerous radioactive waste buried in our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Parliament's energy committee, chaired by the Blairite Rachel Reeves, backs the proposal.

When a Conservative government built Britain's first nuclear power plants in the 1950s, we were promised cheap, pollution-free energy. In reality, the energy was neither.

There were massive cost overruns in building them. But more important, no one seemed to have considered the tons of highly radioactive waste materials produced.

At present, Britain has an estimated 750,000 cubic metres of this deadly waste - equivalent to a 91-metre-high cube. Some of this will be dangerous for many tens of thousands of years. Currently, most is kept in storage tanks at Sellafield in Cumbria.

The only idea for a permanent solution the government has come up with is to bury it between 200 and 1,000 metres down - at a cost of at least 12 billion.

In 2013, they tried to persuade Cumbria County Council to host the site. But after major local opposition, the council turned them down. Other councils were offered bribes of 2.5 million a year to take the site, but have politely declined.

Now the Tories are commissioning a new generation of nuclear generators, Hinkley Point and Wylfa among others. These will produce even more waste, at a time when sustainable power sources - wind turbines, solar farms, tidal lagoons - are within reach of satisfying our power needs.

The Socialist Party opposes new nuclear power stations, which will be hugely expensive, not risk-free from accidents, and will further add to the mountain of radioactive waste.

As for existing waste, no nuclear nation has yet found any good way of dealing with it.

France is constructing a massive storage site, half a kilometre deep. But any site will have a huge above-ground footprint with approach roads and spoil heaps, and would have to be acceptable to local people.

A French expert suggests that geologically, the best site for such storage in Britain would be in the Oxford area - not likely to go down well with local voters!

The Socialist Party says: nationalise the energy and public transport companies. Invest in a massive expansion of green energy and research - not more nuclear.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 7 August 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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