Thursday, 10 January 2008

A Rare Display Of Political Courage.

by Edwin Hesselthwite

The self appointed leaders of the Green movement, acting like any sensible lobby, choose political lines and sticks to them like the front at Passchendale. This is great for consistency and hammer-blow lobbying, but not so good for the purposes of logic and energy policy. No issue has alienated me, personally, more from the green movement (whose broad aims it would be foolish to oppose) than the common intractable stance when it comes to nuclear energy, best summed up by the usually sane Peter Tatchell's absurdly ill-conceived post today on The Guardian's CiF. I would fisk each any every point of flawed reasoning if I didn't think it was so fruitless to argue with a fanatic.

I have always wanted to back the Green movements ideals, but any movement so willing to misrepresent the holy grail of energy production — Tokamak Fusion — as being more of the same as fission, should be viewed with distrust. Nuclear power has it's dangers, but reactor technologies have changed radically since Britain's main Magnox reactor producing era in the 50's and 60's (built demonstrably with the intention of weapon's plutonium production more than energy). Many of the problems of the technology have been eliminated, or should be viewed in the context of modern geochemistry. One issue indeed - that nuclear reactors are always built on the coast, and that water-born isotope chemistry is much more complex and diffusive (plumes of anthropogenic isotopes tend to spew out into the sea from the waters used to cool the reactor, and then behave in complex geochemical ways) - has never been resolved to my satisfaction, but the ongoing research on the topic continues to influence reactor design and placing. The tendency to mis-represent nuclear power as either science fiction or as dangerous 50's technology is contradictory and disingenuous.

So, when it is clear that the government has decided to push ahead with replacing our ageing reactors with modern models, in the face of massive media (the BBC are particularly fond of pandering to baby boomer nostalgia on the issue) and lobbying opposition, I feel the need to pat our elected representatives on the back. This is the right decision — more please, ditching ID cards would be nice.

Enrico Fermi's CP-1, the world's first nuclear reactor, constructed in a Chicago stadium in 1942. Modern reactors are not built to the same design.


Charles Pooter said...

I have cognitive dissonance on this issue. On the one hand I absolutely see the need for continuing clean and cheap energy in the future if our comfortable consumer lifestyles are to be able to continue. In this sense I *do* think it brave for the Government to take on the greens and to embrace new scientific advances.

On the other hand I'm not sure that such lifestyles can or should continue if they rely on a massive state sweeping all concerns aside and building monsterous carbunkles all over the countryside.

On the third hand (my radiation-muatated third hand) is the fact that many greens would be horrifed if mankind succeeded in discovereing a source of free or very cheap (and clean) energy production. Such a thing would allow for more dirty, horrible humans to deface the planet. It would allow such horros as cheap de-salination plants, almost free mass transportation, etc. It would also greatly reduce greenhouse gas emmisions, putting Al Bore, et al out of a job. The disgusting possibilities for progress are almost unlimited! I suspect this is what lies behind their hatred of nuclear energy.

Yes, I'm thoroughly confused, I admit it!

David Lindsay said...

This is about high-skilled, high-wage, high-status jobs for the working class, and it is about independence from Arab oil and Russian gas: One Nation politics, with an equal emphasis on the One and on the Nation.

No wonder that it is so opposed by the (just as anti-"renewable") Greens of all parties, particularly the Lib Dems and the SNP.