Andy Blowers ponders a major local environmental issue in the BANNG column for Regional Life, December, 2019
As I write this, and for the first time in my recollection, environmental issues have claimed consistent public and political attention during a General Election campaign. Pretty well everyone now recognises that climate change is the most palpable and existential threat to our immediate wellbeing and our long-term survival on the planet.
Burning forests in the Amazon, wildfires in California and Australia, flooding in Bangladesh and New Orleans, desertification and famine in Africa, submergence of Pacific islands, destruction of coral reefs, melting ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica, glacier retreat and declining permafrost are routinely featured in our daily news. Less dramatic but nearer home, floods in Cumbria, Somerset and Yorkshire, loss of biodiversity and a succession of hot summers with heat waves reaching highs of 38°C (degrees Celsius) and mild and wet winters are indications that global warming is, indeed, a global process from which none can escape.
If present global trends continue, global warming could reach 3°C – 4°C by the end of the century. Rising sea levels storm surges, coastal erosion and flooding will increase the pressures on fragile, low-lying coasts.
And so we come to our local issue with global implications: Bradwell B. Nuclear power is often presented as a solution to climate change – a low-carbon (not zero carbon) energy source which will help reduce carbon emissions, the main cause of global warming. But, nuclear has serious drawbacks: cost, danger, radioactive wastes. Moreover, by the time Bradwell B could be up and running, more flexible, less costly and less damaging technologies will be available to reduce emissions.
A quarter of the world’s nuclear power stations, are, like Bradwell, on coasts that will be threatened by the rising and surging seas that will wreak wholesale destruction of natural protection and defensive structures and, in the next century, leave abandoned nuclear plants and highly radioactive wastes exposed to the elements. Far from being a solution to climate change, nuclear is likely to be its victim especially at a site such as Bradwell, which will prove impossible to protect. Far better to nip Bradwell B and its ilk in the bud before it is too late.