There has been a fairly concerted effort this year in the UK from a small minority of Tory politicians, backed up by furious lobbying from some well funded bodies to try and put the brakes on the very impressive roll out of our renewable energy infrastructure.
These chaps are ranting about wind turbines, they will take any opportunity to discredit them, the energy they produce and the supposed massive subsidies the wind farming industry is ‘bleeding out of the tax payer to prop up this green-wash sillyness.’
Then my eye falls on a story in the Independent newspaper I found on the train the other day. The headline said it all;
PICTURE COURTESY visitcumbria.com
Sellafield Pleads for Extra £276 million.
I just want to focus on the word ‘extra,’ because ladies and gentlemen we have already forked out several hundreds of thousands of wind turbines worth of cash to deal with nuclear waste in my lifetime.
It’s important to point out that Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing facility in Cumbria isn’t just a nuclear power station, they also deal with the stuff that’s left over when the generating has been done elsewhere.
I quote from the Independent article
‘Sellafield Ltd said that the final costs of building the Evaporator D complex to handle Britain’s liquid nuclear waste will need to be increased from £397m to between £599m and £673m. This is more than six times the original estimate for the project.’
I am not now and never have been ‘opposed’ to nuclear power. I would much prefer to see a new nuclear power station built than another coal burning plant. I am utterly and irrevocably opposed to burning coal, if there is one thing we must stop doing as soon as possible it’s stop burning coal.
However I am very critical of some aspects of the nuclear industry and very aware of the historical link between nuclear power and the nuclear weapons industry, although to a lesser degree today than it was a few years back.
When I heard someone refer to nuclear power as cemetery technology the other day, something clicked in my slow moving brain. It’s a very illuminating term, the sites where these power stations once stood will in effect become cemeteries, we can’t do anything else with that land, it has been taken out of the picture just like a cemetery.
I would be not only happy, but proud if I could erect a 100 meter wind turbine in my garden. It’s very windy where I live and it would produce enough electricity for the surrounding villages and towns, and it wouldn’t burn anything or produce any highly dangerous waste. Yes, it might receive subsidies when it’s constructed, just like the nuclear industry does, although obviously nowhere near as much.
When, in 20-25 years time the turbine comes to the end of it’s productive life, it’s going to cost money to take down. The materials can be re-used to create maybe some other form of renewable energy source we haven’t discovered yet. But in that 20-25 year period, it will produce many gigawatts of electricity without burning anything, we won’t have to send loads of money for Uranium to Australia, coal to Poland, or Gas from Mr Putin or even more money for oil from King Khalid of Saudi Arabia.
When a nuclear power station comes to the end of its productive life, as many are now doing in the UK, it’s a slightly different story as we are seeing with the mind numbing cost of decommissioning the Dounreay site in Scotland.
Due to the highly toxic nature of much of the material still piled up there, a large 24 hour armed police presence is needed as well as all the brave engineers at work trying to figure out what to do with it all.
It’s going to take 20 years minimum and it will cost billions, and I think it’s vital to point out that those billions are not coming from some well funded corporation, no, they are coming from us, the numpty tax payer.
And lastly, the ‘carbuncle’ argument. A wind turbine is a large, industrial installation, if it’s stuck on the top of a hill you can see it for miles.
However earlier this year I drove through Yorkshire, all along the coast are massive, smoke belching power stations which burn through millions of tons of imported coal a year. You can see them from 100’s of miles away, they are a massive carbuncle, the ugliest of eyesores, giant, countryside disfiguring lumps of human engineering excerement and yet I don’t hear middle class NIMBY Telegraph readers putting signs outside their Yorkshire houses saying ‘No More Drax B, Bring Down the Chimneys!’
Maybe that’s because the people of Yorkshire are slightly more realistic, they know where their electricity comes from, they can see it every day. Some cosseted Tory neighbor of Ms Brooks or the Camerons don’t want that ‘ugliness’ near their nice houses.
Well, I live also in the Cotswolds and I think, due to it’s high hills and windy enchantments we should be the new North Yorkshire. We should have massive, 150 meter tall wind turbines on every hill, we should walk around proudly knowing we are producing electricity for the low-landers. I’m talking hundreds of turbines, spinning away day and night, their gentle whooshing sending the children of the Cotswolds into gentle sleep on late summer evenings.
Then we could knock down those vile coal burners in Yorkshire and return that wild, savage coastline to it’s former natural beauty. Nice