Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nuclear mining and waste problems - unsolved

entrance to a nuclear plant
Last night's BBC Radio 4 programme Costing the Earth provides an excellent glimpse of these awful twin challenges facing the nuclear industry.

It visits a mine in Kazakhstan, where most of our uranium comes from - since the environmental regulations are almost non-existent, and rich countries make the mining of the fuel too expensive. Do we really want our power to be dependent on such unethical horrors?

Tom Heap, the presenter, then goes to the USA's Grand Canyon where he meets Navajo Indians who tell him that mining companies took the uranium they needed from the mine but didn't clear up the radioactive waste left behind, with the result that the local residents' drinking water is radioactive.

Closer to home, he visits Cumbria and finds that - as with everywhere in the world - after 50 years of nuclear power the problem of disposing of its radioactive waste is still not solved.

He shows that despite Government claims that nuclear power will get no new tax subsidies, this is likely to be impossible in the three areas of dealing with waste, loan guarantees for construction of new power stations and for liability if anything goes wrong.

Jamie Reid, pro-nuclear Labour MP for Sellafield - where the Thorp reprocessing plant takes nuclear waste from Japan and is the largest earner of yen in the UK economy - says that subsidies are bound to be required for nuclear to work.

The conclusion? Nuclear power should go back in the genie's bottle. It's too dangerous and expensive to be allowed to solve the problem of climate change. We're going to have to look for other solutions.

Listen here:

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