Big fat bribes for anyone willing to live with nuclear waste

Posted by jamie — 12 June 2008 at 3:01pm - Comments

We've known for quite some time that the government's preferred solution to that nagging problem of all the nuclear waste currently lying around the place is to dump it in a big hole in the ground. Nice. However, they've had trouble finding anywhere in the country which has been willing to live with this waste bubbling away beneath their feet but now they've come up with the perfect solution: bribery!

Under proposals released in today's white paper on nuclear waste, fat financial sweeteners will be made available to the lucky local council or councils which "volunteers" to host the deep geological repository. Prime candidate is, of course, the rugged landscape of west Cumbria, already home to Sellafield and the vast majority of our waste where the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has already been accused of bare-faced bribery in convincing the council to extend an existing repository for low-level waste. If a few million fivers stuffed into a tatty manila envelope is the only way the government is going to get its way, you know something is very, very wrong.

Because of course this waste will remain highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, and when someone says they can build a storage system that will remain intact for that length of time, they're telling porkies. Apart from a few stone arrowheads, nothing man-made has lasted even a fraction of that time so making guarantees like that is ludicrous and foolhardy. And the fact that no one has the "haziest idea" of what measures to deal with the existing waste pile would cost, it's inexplicable why anyone would think this was a good idea.

The problem of what to do with this waste is one of the biggest obstacles blocking investment in new nuclear power stations, which is why our atomic age government is having to bribe its way out of (or, in this case, into) a hole. Apparently, the timing of the white paper has nothing whatsoever to do with the meeting being held today between business secretary John Hutton and investors keen to pump their cash into a nuclear future, but even civil servants admit it could ease the way for a new fleet.

Subsidy, bribery, call it what you want: it's still public (ie our) money being used to shore up an industry which, despite wails of protest to the contrary, can't stand on its own two feet.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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