Professional Blogger

It’s official. I am truly a professional blogger now. Today I start my second blogging job. I’ve been hired along with two other writers to investigate nuclear new build for the Institute of Physics here in the UK.

This summer the DTI Energy Review is going to announce its decision about whether or not they will commit to building new nuclear power plants to replace the ones which will be de-commissioned over the next 30 years.

The independent watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission, has looked into the issue and decided that nuclear power isn’t the way forward. Their findings are not the government’s final decision.

There doesn’t seem to be a government-led public consultation before they make their decision this summer. Our job on the Potential Energy project is to instigate and encourage that public discussion…

None of the writers on the project are nuclear experts, yet all of us have an open mind about nuclear power. Over the next 10 weeks I invite all of you in the UK (and elsewhere, of course) to come along, engage in the conversation and let your voice be heard. So far everyone commenting on the site is pro-nuclear… are there any anti-nuclear people out there?

12 Responses to “Professional Blogger”
  1. R.J. says:

    Yes – me! I’m totally anti-nuclear. The “experts” say there can’t ever be another Chernobyl. I say, there’s no such word as “can’t.”

    Congratulations on becoming ‘professional’. Before long, we’ll need a letter from the Pope just to speak with you!


  2. giagia says:

    RJ, let’s say we take Greenpeace’s estimate that there will be 200,000 deaths attributable directly to Chernobyl (the UN said it was 9,000)… then look at how many people died in the Tsunami in 2005 (over 200k)… then think about how many more deaths there would be when the sea rises 1 metre wiping out major cities on the East Coast of the US alone…

    Chernobyl happened because the reactor was flawed, because it was the arse end of the Cold War in the Soviet Union and they were secretive, had no ‘culture of safety’ and the operators were careless…

    Even with the largest nuclear accident in America, Three Mile Island, there was either no increased health risk or the health risks were slightly higher than average, depending on who you want to believe… Either way there were fewer attributable deaths to Three Mile Island than there were to Hurricane Katrina…

    Saying all of that… I wouldn’t want to live anywhere near a nuclear power or reprocessing plant…

  3. R.J. says:

    Now – that’s it exactly, Gia. All the logical arguments point to nuclear power as safe – but only if the power plant or reprocessing site is on someone else’s doorstep, not ours. We can do very little about natural disasters like Katrina or the 2005 tsunami, but why up the stakes by covering the planet with nuclear reactors, which may or may not accidently kill people, but are almost certain to be targets for some terrorist organisation, or simple nutcase, at a point in the future? It’s not as if there are no options. The alternatives are many, and most have never been properly researched because the investment isn’t there. Our energy requirements can most easily be met by nuclear power; the industry is already in place. But the easiest route is not necessarily the best. Also, the argument put forward by Iran – if the West can have nuclear power, why not us? – becomes more and more watertight as the West commits to nuclear energy, and other, even less stable nations will likely follow Iran’s lead.
    However, my objections go way beyond these arguments. Less than sixty years ago, homo sapiens displayed their inability to handle and control nuclear energy by the irresponsible manner in which they played around with their new-found toy. The very first nuclear invention was the ‘bomb’. That we now have more nuclear bombs on the planet than at any time since 1945, and we are still threatening to use them, proves to me that our species is far too irresponsible for such massive and potentially violent energy sources. When we have learned peaceful co-existence, disposed of our nuclear arsenals, then perhaps we may have evolved to where we can use nuclear energy for peaceful means. Until then, lets play around with wavepower, the wind, hydro-electic schemes, even clean-burning fossil fuel plants – all natural elements that are less likely to turn around and bite us.

  4. jas says:

    I’ve looked into this and I think the only way nuclear fission power can be made acceptable is through reactors like IFR. IFR produces only short-lived waste, has plenty of fast neutrons spare for transmutation of long-lived waste, and reprocesses spent fuel (which is over 90% unspent fuel, and currently completely wasted!) into fresh fuel on site, eliminating risky transport of spent fuel. Because it operates well with mixed oxides it becomes very difficult to build weapons from it and because it discharges no long-lived waste it is difficult to make into weapons.

  5. jas says:

    Oh, and, er, the very first nuclear device was the particle accelerator (which, as you probably never bothered to find out, is used to treat cancer, detect flaws in metals and in human beings, and to make all sorts of useful things. After that, the next nuclear device was Fermi’s nuclear reactor- again, completely non-explodey.

    So, er, if you’re going to make these big arguments against an entire field of science and engineering, you really ought to learn what the heck you’re talking about, R. J., because frankly, you’re talking out of your hat.

  6. jas says:

    Oh and we don’t have “more nuclear bombs on the planet now than at any time since 1945”, since we in fact have fewer now than we did in the mid 1980s by some thousands. We have even lost an entire nuclear power- South Africa has dismantled its nuclear weapons programme.

  7. giagia says:

    That’s the thing everyone’s feelings about nuclear power are all wrapped up in ‘nuclear bombs’. I mean, I’m not a fan of nuclear bombs… I’m not even a fan of toy guns… but nuclear power is an entirely different thing.

    But… will it sort out our CO2 issues very quickly so that we don’t all start dying horrrible climate change deaths? Er… not so sure.

  8. Daisy says:

    I’m woefully uneducated about the issues so not only am I sending congratulations on the new job, I’m rejoicing in the fact that you’ll seen be writing about nuclear power in layman’s terms that even I can understand ;-)

  9. R.J. says:

    Jasmine – I’m not arguing ‘against an entire field of science and engineering’, I’m arguing against the wholesale use of nuclear power for producing energy that can be readily produced by other and safer means. As to the numbers of nuclear bombs on the planet, the only fact we can be sure of is that we don’t know how many there are. Can you tell me how many the US has stockpiled? I don’t think they’re too keen to make that audit known. Yes, there may be an ‘official’ figure somewhere, but we can be certain it isn’t correct. Equally, no-one knows how many the Israelis have in their arsenal.
    Science is knowledge, but what we do with that knowledge is crucial. Time and again we have proved ourselves hopelessly fallible when determining how we utilize technology science has provided. We are not gods; we just like to think we are. If the politicians decide nuclear is the way to go, it will not be because it is the best longterm solution for the planet, or its inhabitants. It will be for short-term profit; financial and political.

  10. jas says:

    Actually, we can tell exactly how many they may have by integrating the amount of krypton-86 in the atmosphere over time and subtracting the known emissions from civilian nuclear power. That gives us an upper bound for the possible number of nuclear weapons.

  11. john says:

    Hasn’t the decision been made already? Does that deflate you in term of the potential impact of your blogging?

  12. giagia says:

    John- there hasn’t been a government decision, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown- personally- have said that nuclear should be in the mix.

    Very few people really understand the issue and all of its varied facets… But Jasmine has stormed in and is doing an amazing job…:)