Today the BBC report that the ‘green light’ has been given on the UK’s programme of building new nuclear power stations. However, it is not at all the clear that this will result in the motion of any nuclear ‘traffic’. As I have mentioned previously, and as the Guardian re-iterated at the weekend, the UK’s nuclear destiny does not rest in our hands.
The green light comprises a weighty report (228 Page pdf) by Mike Weightman from the Office for Nuclear Regulation. Summarising the report is easy: it says that ‘Fukushima couldn’t happen here‘. I am sure that the whole document has been thoroughly reviewed but I have to confess to being a little worried by finding a typo in the fourth sentence of the foreword…
…. Initially 12 on‐site back diesel generators were used to provide the alternating (AC) electrical supplies….
I try to keep my typos off the first page – that satisfies 90% of the readers of anything I have ever written! The report is no surprise to anyone, and it is hard to imagine that anyone will trawl all the way through it. But it does give (at last) a reasonable description of the Fukushima accident. This is hard to summarise, but roughly speaking the reactor damage was worse than I had understood and we can count ourselves lucky that there has been such little nuclear contamination. The operators were making judgements about to what to do based on educated guesswork about what was happening inside the reactors – not a situation anyone can be happy with. However, we should be grateful (to them and to whatever God you believe in) that they made (mostly) good decisions.
The fact the new nuclear build has been given the go-ahead, does not mean that it will take place. The UK government has given permission for private companies to invest billions of pounds in the UK, but billions of pounds are in short supply at the moment (unless you are a banker). And these private companies may well choose to invest their money in less technologically and politically risky assets. Or in assets which deliver a return on investment more quickly. If these companies choose not to invest here, then we can’t do anything to make them. As I mentioned above, our nuclear destiny does not lie in our hands.