I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Hollywood block-and-gore-buster movie “Troy” which was an epic attempt to portray an epic tale with Brad Pitt quite astonishingly epic in it. He must have worked out at the gym for some time before the filming – Achilles looks quite overpoweringly frightening, striding off, bronzedly, with shiny shins, hulking huge metal weapons to slice and dice some more foes to bacon. Curiously, still with a fairly boyish face, though.
If you were to encounter this kind of demi-god, in modern day Paris, for example, you would feel about the size of an ant. Your protests would not be audible, and your running away quickly could not be fast enough. It would be like a waking nightmare, trying to escape being trampled. I think this is how most people opposed to nuclear power feel, like an ant versus Pitt. Personally, I feel completely impotent, without any kind of meaningful platform, from which to resist the sheet physical size of the nuclear edifice.
Nuclear power is exceptionally anti-democratic. You cannot oppose it, because roughly half the civil servants in the behind-the-scenes UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and related statutory agencies owe their salaries to this one energy technology. Admittedly, most of them are paid to deal with the aftermath of nuclear power – the legacy and future legacy of decommissioned reactors, radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. With this kind of investment of state personnel in nuclear power, it is likely to be very improbable that any upcoming government could begin to wind down the focus on atomic energy.
There has been no effective resistance to the UK’s outline plans for 16 gigawatts of new nuclear power, to replace the reactors that are getting dangerous and need to be closed down by 2023 or so. And no public voice strong enough to be taken seriously to criticise the proposals for an even larger number “fleet” : “16GWe is only the ‘first tranche’ figure and substantially below the 75GWe upper limit being examined in DECC.” Oh yes, there are thousands of people protesting against new nuclear power, academics, engineers, campaigners, but their words, their essays, their complaints, their research, are virtually inaudible against this state machine. By comparison, it is easy to kick up a fuss about the siting of wind turbines and get some kind of reaction.
It was too easy to recruit a number of public voices to the “cause” of nuclear power – touted as a remedy to climate change – and hide behind this facade of acceptance, and use it as proof that the people want atomic energy. It didn’t matter if these voices were experts or not. People who “came out” in support of nuclear power included : Mark Lynas, George Monbiot, Stephen Tindale, Patrick Moore, James Lovelock – not one of them a nuclear physicist. Even now, James Hansen is being used as a pro-nuclear power authority, even though he’s a Climate Change scientist, not a nuclear power engineer.
Where there’s muck, there’s brass – it’s almost as if the UK Government relish the thought of centuries more of radioactive manure, as it will certainly keep themselves and their establishment-embedded offspring in muck-based pensions, if not fortunes. Why does the State need to be so heavily involved ? Because the nuclear power generators have been so patently reluctant or incapable to process their own waste – especially if the businesses have gone into administration before the decommissioning of the plant.
There is no collective dialogue around how to turn back these really disturbing plans for new nuclear power. The risks of major accidents have not been eliminated in the reactor and power plant designs. The risk of proliferation – the abuse of radioactive materials for military purposes – is still right there staring in the face of the planners. The risks surrounding the programmes to dispose of radioactive waste and radioactive spent nuclear fuel are essentially unquantified and unquantifiable.
What drives these people onward to further chaos ? Are they doomed, like Achilles, to fight a fruitless battle ? Have they been cursed by the gods ? Do they not see the vulnerabilities of their plans and the technology of nuclear power itself ?