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Nuclear Debate in the UK/Global Warming

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  • Nuclear Debate in the UK/Global Warming

    Just wanted to discuss a couple of issues which I am dealing with as part of my undergraduate degree on Environmental Management.

    Tony Blair has just recently launched a debate over the energy crisis which is threatening to engulf the UK over the next decade http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4483002.stm It may or may not surprise you to learn that Sir Digby Jones, Head of the Confederation of British Industry, key Blair supporter and someone who has vested interests in the Nuclear Industry is very vocal in his support for the construction of new nuclear power plants.

    Despite Tony's claims that no decision has been made and that there shall be a national debate and consultation process on the issue, to me, it has all the hallmarks of a complete and utter whitewash and the construction shall go ahead anyway no matter what.

    To me there are two key issues

    1. Who on god's earth would be willing to put up with a nuclear power station in their backyard?

    2. How do you dispose of آ£60 billion worth of nuclear waste when the power plants are decommissioned 30 - 40 years down the line.

    I would be interested in other people's views on the nuclear debate and also on the following issue: Global Warming & Climate Change

    It has been acknowledged in some quarters with regards to global warming, that we are in a state of irreversible decline and any future action to tackle global warming/climate change issue, shall have little impact. Forget the war against terror, this is the real crisis engulfing planet earth.

    IMO there are a number of key points which are crucial to the survival of humanity.

    1. The rise of India and China as global superpowers. When you consider our current inefficient use and waste of resources for a population of 6 billion, heaven forbid what level of strain poor old mother nature will be under when that same population jumps to 10 billion in the next 50 years. Now I'm not suggesting that these people should be denied the same chances as you or I, but you have to fear for the future.

    2. Inaction from the US goverment in regard to the Kyoto treaty. Pretty much self - explanatory. As a major source of fossil fuel emissions, The refusal of the US to ratify the Kyoto treaty is a huge blow to conserving the environment.

    3. Crisis within the scientific community and the influence of the oil cartels:
    Where unity may be crucial for earth's survival, the schism within the scientific community is the last thing that is needed. Some scientists who recieve considering funding from those in the oil industry have begun to dispute the very idea of global warming, citing natural environmental processes and cycles that effect the earth every 20 -50,000 years. The Oil industry background of G.W. Bush is well documented and this is seen as a major barrier to action to tackle climate change.

    4. The rise of fundamentalism: It's not just the debate over 'Creation Science' but over the issue of climate change as well. Many people percieve climate change to be 'The Wrath Of God' which is punishing the sinners. Wielding considerable influence, these groups are seen by many to be hampering action on climate change.

    As usual, feel free to pick over these points and provide your own views on the subject. It'll be a great help to my work, no matter what side of the fence you are on in regard to the subject.

  • #2
    Re: Nuclear Debate in the UK/Global Warming

    Originally posted by Dreamweaver
    To me there are two key issues

    1. Who on god's earth would be willing to put up with a nuclear power station in their backyard?

    2. How do you dispose of آ£60 billion worth of nuclear waste when the power plants are decommissioned 30 - 40 years down the line.
    The easy answer is, of course, those without any other options. Ask people who are paying a third of the income on power bills. Offering them the "option" of paying only a quarter of their income for power instead would be a blessing. It is textbook environmental inequality. These are often the same communities who could wind up with others' waste, toxic or otherwise.

    Originally posted by Dreamweaver
    I would be interested in other people's views on the nuclear debate and also on the following issue: Global Warming & Climate Change

    It has been acknowledged in some quarters with regards to global warming, that we are in a state of irreversible decline and any future action to tackle global warming/climate change issue, shall have little impact. Forget the war against terror, this is the real crisis engulfing planet earth.
    To me, you tackle part of the problem by including a slash in "global warming/climate change." The people are changing the debate when they use the term "climate change." That simply is not what is happening. I refuse to use the term, as both of the terms are politically loaded. "Climate change" erases the responsibility from humanity, who may ultimately be unable to live in the conditions we are creating.

    Originally posted by Dreamweaver
    1. The rise of India and China as global superpowers. When you consider our current inefficient use and waste of resources for a population of 6 billion, heaven forbid what level of strain poor old mother nature will be under when that same population jumps to 10 billion in the next 50 years. Now I'm not suggesting that these people should be denied the same chances as you or I, but you have to fear for the future.
    If the people of North America, Europe, and Pacific Asia can create so much greenhouse gas, imagine what 2.2 billion other people can produce on top of it.

    More importantly, regulation of emissions for those extra 2.2 billion people is largely an unknown quantity. Environmental conditions are likely to get worse before they get better.


    Originally posted by Dreamweaver
    2. Inaction from the US goverment in regard to the Kyoto treaty. Pretty much self - explanatory. As a major source of fossil fuel emissions, The refusal of the US to ratify the Kyoto treaty is a huge blow to conserving the environment.
    Inexplicable. It seems to me that supporting Kyoto is like supporting a proclamation that it is good to like puppies and kittens.

    What troubles me the most is that W's objections are based on questioning the science behind Kyoto. No environmental scientist not on a government payroll questions its validity. W substitutes politics for science, then tells us with a straight face that the science is inconlusive. Only for the policy makers...

    Given the debate over intelligent design, though, should any of us be surprised. This is part of a larger problem of questioning the science that doesn't suit our beliefs, which may prove to be even more problematic in the near future, particularly if we raise a generation who always chooses belief over emperical evidence.

    Originally posted by Dreamweaver
    3. Crisis within the scientific community and the influence of the oil cartels:
    Where unity may be crucial for earth's survival, the schism within the scientific community is the last thing that is needed. Some scientists who recieve considering funding from those in the oil industry have begun to dispute the very idea of global warming, citing natural environmental processes and cycles that effect the earth every 20 -50,000 years. The Oil industry background of G.W. Bush is well documented and this is seen as a major barrier to action to tackle climate change.
    Oil company executives helped craft US energy policy with Cheney. Oil companies enjoyed record profits while Americans paid record prices at the pump. Coincidence?

    Dependence on the oil industry is as problematic as dependence on oil.

    Somewhat appropriately, I am writing this on a day in December when temperatures are supposed to reach record highs--over 85 degrees f, after I talked to someone who was a Katrina survivor. This, too, is mythical?

    Comment


    • #3
      The pro-nuclear arguments around nuclear power seem entirely driven by the nuclear industry and politicians like Blair looking for a pain free "solution" (under current Anglo-American economic paradigms, where "growth" is the be-all and end-all, this is impossible).

      So far, all that we have had from politicians is a load of hot air (literally and figuratlively). No mainstream party that I'm aware of has actually made concerted steps to reduce carbon emissions, which is of course the crux of the matter. Futhermore, no politician is prepared to make the economic "sacrifices" necessary to make these changes (at least, not until the ecosystem makes them itself, by which time, said politicians will be safely dead or in retirement).

      Another point against nuclear that hasn't been raised is the time and energy taken to build nuclear power stations. A single power station would take approximately 10 years to build, and given the enormous amounts of energy expended, would take a futher decade to become carbon-neutral. Given that we have little more than 10 years to effect an irreversable decline in carbon emissions before the planet's ecosystem suffers major, irreversable damage, nuclear is no answer at all.

      As regards the UK situation, I do actually get the odd flash of optimism. For example, I believe that Gordon Brown, the UK treasury minister, is against nuclear expanison on the grounds that it will require in the region of آ£50 billion in public subsidies. If he sticks to his guns, he may scupper the whole plan if/when he becomes Prime Minister (and if he beats the new Conservative leader in the next election). This prediction does require that he maintains his current stance as PM, and continues with his much-vaunted "fiscal prudence" (aided and abetted by a little shifting of the goalposts, of course).

      I think that the current debate around electricity production is, to a certain extent, overrated. Simply switching to a cleaner source of energy will not in itself will at best, reduce emissions by less than 20%. What is needed is a major shift away from society's addiction to fossil fuels.

      What frustrates me is the fact that so much of this is so damn simple! For example, if businesses didn't leave lights on ALL BLOODY NIGHT, then that would cut energy use, and save them a packet on their electricity bills. I know they're on "for security", but what are burglar alarms for, guys? I reckon that legislating for stricter insulation standards for public and private buildings could be as, if not more effective than any initiative for renewable energy. That said, I still believe that maximizing renewable energy and minimizing use of fossil fuels is still important.

      The simplest things are often the most effective. Imagine if everyone started switching the lights off when they didn't need them, or turned their heating systems down 1-2%?

      But would the government do such things, I wonder? I mean, where is the profit for Blair's beloved CBI?

      Comment


      • #4
        I think that once the lights start going out the debate about nuclear will disapear. :2cents:
        Arioch, aid me! Blood and souls for Arioch!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hawksun
          I believe that Gordon Brown, the UK treasury minister, is against nuclear expansion on the grounds that it will require in the region of آ£50 billion in public subsidies.
          Precisely why Blair's heroine Maggie T scuppered nuclear power during her reign of terror.

          There seems to be an air of desperation about the scheme. It's ironic that it's reared its ugly head at a time we're all worried about terrorism - nuclear flasks being transported around the country would be an ideal target for any religious fantasist with apocalyptic aspirations. Imagine if a nuclear plant had been the target on 9/11?

          It's interesting that some environmenalists appear to be crossing over to the other side on this one - such as James Lovelock of 'Gaia' fame. There is supposed to be a gender divide on the issue - men like the idea of a technical fix (not this one!) whilst women remain sceptical. Could the fear of birth defects be a factor? I hope I'm not being sexist if I suggest women tend to be more focussed on reproduction.

          Actually, that isn't entirely true, as years ago I used to date a girl who was a apprentice at Winfrith (an experimental nuclear power station in Dorset - mysterious trains used to rumble towards it behind my house in Bournemouth at the dead of night). This was the source of endless 'inappropriate' comments (along the lines of "How does she react when you load a uranium rod?" :roll: ) from my greenish hippy chums.

          We used to have endless fun disagreeing about the issue (funnily enough - I met her on a 'Save the Whale' demo, so she knew what she was letting herself in for...)- until Chernobyl went up, which made further debate unnecessary from my point of view. Of course, that was a dodgy foreign Commie reactor, unlike our nice safe British (well, American, actually) ones.

          Overall, I just think its criminally irresponsible to leave the nuclear waste for future generations to deal with. There's got to be a better way.

          And what ever happened to fusion?
          \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

          Comment


          • #6
            Mikey_C wrote:
            Of course, that was a dodgy foreign Commie reactor, unlike our nice safe British (well, American, actually) ones.
            Like Windscale (now rebranded as Sellafield) and Three Mile Island.

            Comment


            • #7
              Totally off-topic outburst:

              Originally posted by Mikey_C
              Actually, that isn't entirely true, as years ago I used to date a girl who was a apprentice at Winfrith...
              My sister was an apprentice there too! She used to make fun of the "hippies" when they sat outside the fences protesting, but I forget why... I think, she got annoyed at being heckled when she was simply an apprentice, with nothing whatsoever to do with the nuclear side of things. As far as I know the "threat" of exposure didn't bother her at all, but then she's never been too concerned with reproduction. She always says very mean things about women with children, and delights in mocking our mother for giving up her job to raise a family. :roll:

              Wow, the world really is a tiny place after all...
              "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

              Comment


              • #8
                You know, I don't normally say this, but I wish Margaret Thatcher was back in power. As a chemist, she understood and accepted the science behind global warming and saw it as a threat. As a politician I don't think she would have had any problem shouting at George Bush. She'd handbag him if necessary.
                Blair on the other hand lacks scientific understanding, and from what I've seen, balls. He's too 'realistic' / managerial.

                Unless of course, it's a long term US plan to finally complete the war of independence by turning the UK into Labrador (likely when the Gulf Stream moves).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jules
                  ... As a politician I don't think she would have had any problem shouting at George Bush. She'd handbag him if necessary. ..

                  Unless of course, it's a long term US plan to finally complete the war of independence by turning the UK into Labrador (likely when the Gulf Stream moves).
                  I suspect, W. being the charmer he is, that Thatcher would have left any tأ?te - أ  - tأ?te meeting in the Oval Office, with her M&S knickers in her handbag. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

                  Absolute power is just the sort of thing to weaken the knees of Thatcher's sort.

                  "Labrador"? Would that be the place, or the breed of dog?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    This is a complicated one because there is so much rubbish talked on both sides. Modern nuclear power plants are very efficient and have a good safety record. In fact you are probably better off living next to one than an old coal burning power station, as they are incredibly toxic. I believe that gas fired stations are not much better.

                    On the other hand, the argument that nuclear power is even a relatively clean form of energy is completely untrue. Putting to one side the question of waste, the ecological impact of uranium mining is absolutely horrendous.

                    Still, I don't think that you really have to engage with the science in order to see that Blair is off his head (or, more likely, lining his pocket). The fact is that the nuclear industry has never been profitable in this country and, given the New Labour dogma that nationalisation is such a bad thing, there can be no argument for the government to allow the expansion of an industry which will require massive subsidies from the taxpayer in order to keep its head above water.

                    Of course, this is all academic because, despite the propaganda about 'consultation', it smells like a done deal to me :(

                    Comment

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