Letter printed in Western Daily Press and the Western Morning News on 17 September 2021
Nuclear Power Stations are closing down and very few are being built. Nuclear generation around the world is slowly dying as part of the global energy transition to cheaper, cleaner and quicker to build renewable energy technologies. Even so, a desperate nuclear building industry is spending millions in a public relations campaign, to convince politicians and the public that nuclear new build still has an important part to play in the battle to replace fossil fuels to fight climate change. This is nonsense, as rather than being a saviour in taking on climate change, nuclear is in the front line to become a significant victim to the rapidly evolving climate changes.
The reason why nuclear is so vulnerable to rapid climate change is, water!
Nuclear generation of electricity needs large amounts of water, for reactor and radioactive waste cooling purposes and for the condensing in steam generation to be able to produce electricity. Too much, or too little water, or water to warm, is disastrous for nuclear generation! For these reasons therefore, nuclear power plant are either built on the coast or inland on large rivers.
As knowledge of climate warming and polar ice melts evolves it is becoming clear that sea level rise is accelerating significantly faster than previously thought. This means more frequent and destructive storm surges, severe rainfall, flooding inundation and coastal erosion becoming the norm.
Most coastal power stations and accompanying radioactive waste stores are built just a few metres above sea level and are therefore vulnerable to an accelerating sea level rise, more frequent storm surges, flooding and increasing coastal erosion.
Hot radioactive waste at Hinkley Point C will have to be kept safe and secure for at least 160 years before it could even be moved. As the Somerset coastline is rapidly eroding and flooding, building higher and higher sea walls, will mean Hinkley Point C will become “an isolated, island fortress of radioactive waste”
Inland nuclear power stations are also vulnerable, not only to the extreme rainfall causing severe river flooding, but also the opposite problem of increasing long hot droughts depriving them of sufficient water for steam generation. French river based nuclear power stations are also often turned off in hot Summers, before the hot water emissions from generation kill off the natural river wildlife. Hot global temperatures bring increasing forest fires such as those in Ukraine recently encroaching on the Chernobyl nuclear waste site.
We and our children will have enough problems of mitigating our lives against rapidly changing climate change, we don’t need more new nuclear plants and have to deal with their accumulating long term toxic radioactive waste as an extra burden, cost and hindrance to our future.
Allan Jeffery (Assistant co-ordinator Stop Hinkley)
Link to Paul Dorfman’s article in the Ecologist that stimulated Allan’s letter to the press. https://theecologist.org/2021/jul/14/when-climate-breakdown-goes-nuclear