Even someone of my generation can feel rightly pissed off with the overly confident and simultaneously paranoid numpties of the 1950’s with their blind faith in nuclear weapons and their ‘balance of power’ obsessions. They have left us with a right old mess in the playroom.
These glorious islands we call the United Kingdom house the largest stockpile of civil grade plutonium….. (suitable Clarksonian pause) ….. in the world.
I have just listened to this alarming BBC radio 4 program called ‘Britain’s Plutonium Mountain.’
The cost of dealing with this toxic legacy are too enormous and depressing to recount, listen to the show if you want the figures, however I couldn’t help but speculate for just a bit after I’d heard it.
I admit I’m a dreamer, a barely educated fool and I’m often accused of ‘not living in the real world,’ however I think we can all agree that ‘the real world’ that created this nuclear nightmare is not particularly fiscally prudent or sane one.
So bare with me for a short moment of idiotic fantasy. Just imagine if instead of spending uncountable billions on newer, ever more complex, ever more fragile technologies to use this ‘ultimate fuel’ to generate our electricity, we had back in 1953 followed the hippy dippy route of developing massive, expensive, hard to connect to the grid off shore wind farms and massive, expensive, hard to construct expensive grid level storage. We could have spent say £20 billion of tax payers hard earned money doing this over the last 55 years, that would have been a lot less than we have spent on our nuclear programs, but where would we be now?
Oh yes, I get it, a massive proportion if not the entirety of our electricity would be generated with renewable sources, we wouldn’t have to import dangerous and expensive fissile or hydrocarbon fuels from dodgy and dangerous sources, our economy would be healthier because we’d spent the money for that electricity within our own system, it would employ thousands to construct and maintain the systems, the environment around us would be safer, we wouldn’t have to deal with this insane stockpile of lethal stuff that will just not go away for hundreds of thousands of years.
But that’s just silly, the ‘real world’ solution is to continue to spend billions and billions of pounds shoring up an utterly non-functioning system because we are buggered if we don’t.
No one from the pro nuclear lobby ever mentions Sellafield and the incredibly important work of the very brave men and women who work there dealing with this hideous inheritance. The armed men who guard this deadly stockpile twenty four hours a day at unimaginable cost. This isn’t party political in any way, every shade of government for the last 50 years has been sucked into this mess
Just in case you can’t be bothered to listen to the program, I will précis one bit of our proud nuclear history.
It is theoretically possible to combine plutonium with other mildly less dangerous fissile material to create a ‘mixed oxide’ or MOX fuel. The French do it, not really anyone else.
In 1993 we started building a MOX plant at Sellafield with an initial cost of £265 million, but before building was finished guess what? Yes, it ended up a little bit more expensive, £437 million and with one other teeny weeny problemette. It didn’t work.
Yes, clever men in suits, scientists and politicians managed to spend £437 million of our taxpayers money doing diddly-squit.
Not only that, it is now going to cost literally billions to decommission the site. Before the MOX plant was finally closed down it had produced just over 1% of what it was supposed to do. It was described in a memo from the American government revealed by Wikileaks as ‘the biggest technological white elephant in British history.’
You have to laugh or you go mad.