‘Unsustainable, unmanageable, unacceptable and unsuitable’. Nuclear waste expert urges Government to ditch both Bradwell B and Sizewell C projects now.
An international expert on radioactive waste management and sustainable development has written to the Sizewell C Examining Authority declaring that both Bradwell B and Sizewell C should be abandoned as a whole now to avoid falling victims to catastrophic impacts of climate change later.
Andrew Blowers OBE, Chair of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), Professor of Social Sciences at the Open University and formerly a member of various Government scientific advisory bodies on nuclear waste, insists that far from being ‘potentially suitable’ sites, as the Government declared a decade ago, Bradwell and Sizewell are ‘totally unsuitable’ for the deployment of nuclear reactors and highly radioactive spent fuel stores which will remain on site until the latter half of the next century.
Professor Blowers states: ‘There is the possibility of calamitous risks being passed on to generations in the far future. This may be acceptable to the developers and Government, in which case they should say so. It is not acceptable to those, like me, who oppose this development’.
Both Bradwell and Sizewell are fragile, low-lying coastal sites vulnerable to inundation and will be increasingly exposed to the impacts of climate change in the form of sea-level rise, storm surges and coastal processes. Both are situated in areas of considerable environmental sensitivity, which will be severely compromised by nuclear development.
In terms of their sheer scale and location, the two power stations would be inappropriate, gross intrusions into the landscape with devastating impacts on habitats, wetlands and the marine environment. These impacts may be individually tackled by adaptation, mitigation or compensation. But, Professor Blowers goes on, ‘such a piecemeal approach is not acceptable in so far as it may lead to an outcome that is wholly unacceptable. That is why I would claim that both projects must be judged as a whole’.
It is the impact of climate change that provides the most compelling reason for abandoning these proposals now. Even in the unlikely event of global warming of 20C being achieved, there will still be global sea-level rise of around a metre by 2100. If present warming trends continue, a rise of 2m. and more is conceivable. It is questionable whether the proposed hard defences will be proof against inundation, storm surges and coastal processes in deteriorating circumstances. In any case, in conditions of increasing uncertainty, it must be questioned whether such colossal infrastructures should be developed on such inappropriate sites on the vulnerable East Anglian shores.
Beyond the turn of the next century we enter the unknown and unknowable, although fears of collapse of ice sheets are already suggesting almost unimaginable consequences especially for coastal populations and structures across the globe. Although the power stations should have closed by then, their reactors and spent fuel will remain, at least until around 2165, quite possibly beyond. The plans for managing these dangerous materials are vague and simplistic. The Government asserts that ‘effective arrangements will exist to manage and dispose of the waste’, yet the geological disposal facility does not exist and may never do so, especially for unknown quantities of highly radioactive new build wastes so far in the future.
Prof. Blowers observes: ‘We simply cannot know if the careful (or careless) plans for the safe management of radioactive waste management can be carried forward in anything like their present formulation, if at all’.
And there is the impact on future generations. ‘We cannot foresee, and they cannot tell us, what will befall these gigantic pieces of dangerous infrastructure on our vulnerable coasts. Therefore, on grounds of intergenerational equity it is unethical and impractical to pass on burdens of risk, cost and effort to generations who derive no benefit from the activity’.
In conclusion, Professor Blowers writes: ‘the proposal for new nuclear power stations at Bradwell and Sizewell must be rejected as a whole on the grounds of their immense scale and environmental impact on sites that will become unsustainable, unmanageable, unacceptable and unsuitable’.