The future for nuclear power?

Posted by bex — 19 May 2006 at 8:00am - Comments

Friday the 13th

A secret document has revealed that the new breed of nuclear reactor Blair is considering building is highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The Electricite de France (EDF) document looks at the vulnerability to terrorist attack of the new European Pressurised Reactors (EPR). These reactors are already under construction in France and Finland and may be built in the UK if Tony Blair has his way.

After analysing the document, nuclear expert John Large concluded that it reveals "an almost total lack of preparation to defend against the inevitability of terrorist attack". In particular, it includes seriously flawed assumptions about whether the reactor could withstand a terrorist attack using hijacked commercial aircraft.

Bizarrely, in light of the deadly accuracy of the 9/11 attacks, the document claims that terrorists would not have the skills to pilot an aircraft onto the intended target. It also fails to differentiate between a 250-tonne commercial jet aircraft and a five tonne military aircraft in terms of the energy of impact.

The document claims that up to 100 tonnes of aviation fuel from a commercial aircraft would burn within two minutes - an unjustified and unproven claim. It also ignores the possibility of fuel vapour forming within the reactor structures and discounts a serious risk of radioactive release from the reactor.

"The EPR is promoted as the future for nuclear power," said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace. "In reality it is the same dangerous unacceptable technology that has plagued us for decades. Whatever the terrorist threat and targets, a wind turbine or solar panel is not on the list."

The document has caused an uproar in France after an activist was arrested by terrorist police for possessing a copy. In response, environmental groups in France and internationally have published the document on their websites.

"The secrecy of the nuclear industry has been shown time and again to hide pure incompetence," said Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Jean McSorley. "This time it's being used to hide the fact that it's impossible to make nuclear power and materials safe from terrorist attack."

The timing of the leak couldn't be worse for Tony Blair, who announced only this week that nuclear power "is back on the agenda with a vengeance". Blair's energy review is likely to conclude that the UK needs a new generation of nuclear reactors - and the EPR is one of two possible reactor types - instead of investing in a cleaner, safer, cheaper energy future based on efficiency and renewables.

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