Sunday, September 9, 2007

Nuclear Energy is Not clean or green

Not clean or green
Mike Kantey, via-mail

Having read the FM for some decades now as a reliable source of business intelligence, I was disappointed with the fanfare given to nuclear power in the article by Sven Lünsche (FM Fox December 22).

How can the man fall foul of nuclear PR spin?

When he says that "the running costs are considerably cheaper" [than coal], how was this calculated? Did he take into consideration the insurance waiver; the subsidised research & development; the subsidised electricity supplies to the industry itself (astronomical); the costs of mining; milling; enrichment; fuel fabrication; decommissioning and long-term waste storage (not disposal)?

His point that "... most of the safety concerns having been addressed and nuclear power deemed cleaner than coal-fuelled power stations" is a far more serious problem. Is Lünsche aware of a multiparty European Union study that put the blame for increased cancers in the vicinity of nuclear installations squarely at the door of the nuclear industry? Does he know that every year since 1984, Koeberg has put out millions and millions of carcinogenic isotopes, such as strontium-90 and cesium-137, and that the last Pebble Bed Modular Reactor environmental impact report blithely called for an increase in radioactive isotope emissions to both air and water, as well as an increase in radioactive solid waste products per MWe, compared with Koeberg?

On the allegation of cleanness, veteran antinuclear activist and medical doctor Helen Caldicott writes in the introduction to her new book, Nuclear Power is not the Answer :

"Nuclear power is not clean and green', as the industry claims, because large amounts of traditional fossil fuels are required to mine and refine the uranium needed to run nuclear power reactors... In addition, large amounts of the now-banned chlorofluorocarbon gas (CFC) are emitted during the enrichment of uranium. CFC gas is not only 10 000 to 20 000 times more efficient as an atmospheric heat trapper (and therefore a more potent greenhouse gas) than CO², but it is a classic pollutant' and a potent destroyer of the ozone layer."

Finally, in the Weekend Argus of December 30 2006, it was reported that the UK would close down two of its oldest reactors: Magnox Sizewell A and Dungeness A. According to the article ( by Reuters), the sites would be unusable for 100 years because of radioactive contamination.

It follows, therefore, that under no circumstances can nuclear power be declared a "cleaner, safer and cheaper" technology than any other. Please, let the reputable FM first undertake a thorough investigation into all the relevant facts and then compare and contrast one technology with another for electricity-generation purposes.

FM Fox seems to have been scavenging on the shredded waste dump of nuclear spin doctors, rather than outwitting and outfoxing the industry specialists with a free-thinking and free-ranging approach to sound financial journalism.

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