Nuclear time bomb TICKS AWAY

Ray GeorgesonI know we are in the business of recycling and reuse, but I make no apology for returning to a subject that has featured in this column on several occasions. I refer of course to my recycled concerns about all things nuclear.

Inevitably, the dreadful events in Japan that have led to so much loss of life and destruction of property and infrastructure are uppermost in my mind. The Fukushima nuclear power station now has an infamy to rank symbolically with the Windscale fire of 1957, the Three Mile Island accident of 1979 and of course Chernobyl in 1986.

The ‘experts’ will argue that the scale of the disaster at Fukushima is nowhere near that of Chernobyl. They may well be right, but that doesn’t make it any less of a cause not just for concern but for a rethink of our government’s infatuation with nuclear power. Nuclear apologists will tell us that it couldn’t happen here, that our planned new generation plants will be safe and that we don’t live on seismically active land like Japan. On the latter point they are right – but the combination of natural forces that left Fukushima out of control only highlights the intrinsic riskiness of nuclear energy once the radiation genie is out of its bottle.

As I write this, the desperation of the Japanese nuclear authorities and Tokyo Electric Power Company (the plant operators) about the rising levels of radiation is such that they are trying to hire special workers prepared to perform plant rescue activities in areas of very high contamination for short bursts. For their ‘bravery’ these special workers are to be paid £3,000 per shift.

It’s an interesting twist on the operation of the free market. How does anyone determine the price – or indeed value – to be attached to such a dangerous and thankless task?

Reconsidering nuclear power