Short on outrage? Hate nuclear power? Like immigrants? Left wing?

Sellafield, the country’s premier nuclear waste dump (where they in fact do a lot of hard work clearing up the dangerous legacy waste from seven decades of research, generation and weapons making) have a new megacontract out:

The £1.1bn Sellafield Infrastructure Strategic Alliance (ISA) was signed in December 2012 and awarded to a joint venture between engineering, design and consultancy firm Arup and construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall. Delivery of the contract begins in May 2013…The main contractors in this case operate on the basis of three renewable five-year terms.

That’s some serious money. Justifying spending that must require a pretty nuanced communications strategy, eh, Sellafield spokesman Karl Connor?

“The chances are [a firm on a two-year short term contract will] come in and build it, using migrant workers, and then leave when it’s built.  However, if they have a 15 year contract to help us across a wide range of similar pieces of work, they would be more likely to set up an office locally and invest in training local apprentices.”

I’m being a little unfair to Karl, but only a little. I think it’s pretty reprehensible to use anti-migrant sentiment in this way. It’s a cheap shot even if Sellafield are intimately tied to the people living in West Cumbria. It’s also a bit fucking rich considering its a US/British/French consortia running the show at Sellafield.

Nuclear Power can save us from climate change

I think the left and environmentalists need to embrace nuclear power. There are plans for EDF and British Gas to build four reactors, and it is likely that those would be the first of many; Hitachi, GDF Suez and Iberdrola are all interested in building new nuclear in the UK.

Why new nuclear? Well, I was initially a reluctant supporter, but when it comes to large scale, uninterrupted base load generation it is hard to beat nuclear. Plus, no carbon. Not none really, building things emits carbon, but near enough for it to be properly counted as a renewable fuel.

EDF have just announced they are planning on running their existing UK nuclear fleet for another 34 years (that’s across three plants, Hinkley Point, Hunterston and Sizewell). Increasing their life like this will do enough to reduce carbon emissions equivalent to removing all the cars from UK roads for nearly five years. It is about 340 million tonnes of carbon that won’t be emitted. That is just from running longer our existing plants – that’s a big plus for the planet and for people.

But, there are huge problems with nuclear power in Europe.

First of all, Sellafield, it is a mess. Honestly, it is even worse than you imagine. Look it up, the National Audit Office have a report and Wikipedia have some background. Building 30 sounds pretty fucked up especially. And I’ve heard some odd things about the Seagulls that live there – huge they are. However, we are better at dealing with waste now and things are today built so that it is easy to take them apart safely.

That brings us to building, which is the real problem. No Europeans have built Nuclear Power Plants to budget for years. France and Finland have both fucked up colossally. Like three times above cost and behind schedule. Ludicrously badly. However, despite this, all is not lost. The Japanese and Chinese have built ahead of schedule. They don’t have special Asian-aptitude powers, anybody can do it if the corrupt, incompetent, unproductive Chinese can.

So to the problems of nuclear, I would say that they are in the past or that they can be overcome. The promise of nuclear energy is in predictable energy and tons of it with tons of carbon. I think it is the best bet for decarbonising the economy and I think serious environmentalists need to get behind it.