Thursday, 10 December 2009

Huge New Nuclear Power Station for Oldbury

I wonder how many people in our area realise that they are downwind of 
the site for a huge new nuclear power station?

What is proposed is a power station of around 3,300Mw capacity - over 
seven times the current output of the existing Oldbury power station. 
This will involve either two French designed Areva EPR reactors, of 
which the first examples currently under construction in Finland and 
France are both beset with problems, or three of the American 
Westinghouse AP1000. Both designs are based on the pressurised water 
design (or PWR), which will rely on the integrity of its steel pressure 
vessels for its up to 60 years design life. Finally, even our mighty 
Severn seems insufficient to supply the cooling requirements. It may 
need three or four cooling towers that could be nearly 700 feet tall, 
with a steam plume on top.

So there will be a considerable visual impact. But that is not what 
worries me. I am worried about the safety of the pressurised water 
design, which, over the years, has given us both the Three Mile Island 
reactor meltdown, admittedly by another manufacturer (Babcock & 
Wilcox), and many scares concerning problems with corrosion and 
metallurgy. Yes, lessons will have been learned from these incidents, 
yes, we have an independent nuclear regulation and inspection system. 
But for a proposed sixty year reactor life?

A serious accident at the Oldbury nuclear sites would give rise to 
airborne contamination, and the prevailing south-westerly winds will 
bring any contamination to us first. Nuclear power carries with it a 
massive potential risk and it is not right that those of us who are 
concerned about such issues won’t get our say at a public enquiry. 
Additionally after over 50 years of nuclear energy production there is 
still no site identified for the long-term internment of nuclear waste. 
Apparently this merely requires a technical solution. Well where is it?

It beggars belief that the government still spends far more on nuclear 
power research than it does on benign, natural sources such as wave 
power and that the energy agenda is only ever really addressed and 
meaningfully funded in terms of increasing capacity and never in terms 
of smart ways to decrease demand.

As a country we do need to plan for the energy gap as many of our 
current power stations come to the end of their lives, North Sea oil 
runs out and gas supplies risk political interruption. We need a 
coherent programme of large-scale renewable installation, AND a 
programme of meaningful energy efficiencies measures. Without these in 
place the case for new nuclear has not been made.

Martin Whiteside – Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Stroud
Thrupp, GL6 7LU

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