Monday, 14 March 2011

Not on the Ball

Johnny Ball was on the Politics Show's 'soapbox' last week complaining about the science curriculum which he says is scaring pupils about global warming and pollution. "In a few years' time", he said, "the world will be their oyster. So why are we filling their heads with doom and gloom?" I would say it's maybe that with oysters in particular you have to be very careful to avoid pollution, or severe food poisoning might ensue.

"There are wind generators everywhere", he goes on to say, "and not one would be built without public subsidy. Two new nuclear reactors on old sites, which produce no new CO2, will eclipse all the wind generators built and planned. But the wind generators are costing us a fortune." It's an interesting point, if somewhat undermined by the fact that not one nuclear power plant has ever been built or operated in the UK without public subsidy. Some politicians make optimistic noises about the future, but they can only do so by seriously underestimating the cost of new power stations and ignoring the cost of decommissioning. For instance E-ON, estimates that the cost per new nuclear plant could be as high as 4.8 billion, which is much higher than the Government's £2.8 billion estimate. Who knows what it might rise to if and when the plants are actually built?

Johnny's timing was also unfortunate. "What is this devastating threat to us all?" he asked, and almost as if in answer we had the terrible tragedy of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The situation is still developing, but as I write this there are problems in at least five Japanese nuclear power plants, one has exploded and a second explosion seems imminent. In some places, radiation is more than a thousand times 'safe' levels. It could be argued that the UK is not in an earthquake zone, but then neither was Chernobyl. Nuclear power is an extremely dangerous thing even in the best of circumstances, and British facilities have had their share of problems.

The worst that can happen with a wind farm is that they might fall over and hit someone.

Change the world

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