Thursday, 17 March 2011

EU Funds Dangerous Nuclear Power Plants; could a Japanese Nuclear type of disaster happen in the EU?

I looked in shock as first Japan was first hit by an earthquake of unimaginable proportions, then by a wall of water so high, wide and long that it wiped out all in its path, then as the weather changed and survivors sheltered from the bitter cold, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power Plants, unable to function due to the damage, went critical. Now there is the threat of a deadly unseen radioactive cloud that could damage or destroy life.

As I write this there are some workers at the plant displaying breath taking courage by staying there and trying to contain the damage, accepting the fact that their lives are being offered up to save the lives of many others.

We in the West and in my case in the EU, (the UK) are told that this could not happen here as our standards are so high and we are not subject to the same geological problems as Japan. Yet, as Japan's nuclear disaster continues it has emerged that EU is funding a nuclear expansion programme in the Ukraine, despite real safety concerns, that will increase the export of energy to the main body of the EU.

The safety risks and concerns that surround the nuclear industry in the Ukraine that were there in the old Soviet era still remain.

In the EU, after the radiation leaks at the Japanese Fukushima plant, Germany is now to postpone the decision to extend the life of that country’s nuclear power plants, closing some of its older reactors down, while still funding the increase of nuclear power generation in the Ukraine.

It is the intention of the Ukraine Government to increase the number of nuclear power plants there from 12 to 22, and this work has been granted close to one billion Euros, jointly, from the EBRD, (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and the EIB (European Investment Bank) with the funding supporting the 'Trans-European Energy Network projects' which will enable the Ukraine to export energy produced in that country to EU Member States.

There are however huge concerns regarding the safety of these plans, especially since the Ukraine Government is keen to increase the working life of its existing Soviet-era reactors from 30 to 45 years. This may well be a financial necessity as the Ukraine government does not have adequate facilities in order to decommission their radioactive waste. Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath, from the environmental watchdog Bankwatch who monitor the activities of The EU said: “Twenty-five years after Chernobyl it [the Ukraine] has not solved technically and financially the problem of management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. Furthermore, without enough resources to fulfil its utopian strategy of constructing 22 nuclear reactors by 2030, the government is now extending the life of existing nuclear blocks, which increases the risks of operational accidents”.

Part of the problem is the power of the EU Nuclear Lobby groups with their claim that Nuclear Power is low carbon and so part of a solution to Climate Change. The EU invests then in the Ukraine Nuclear Industry so as it can import ‘low priced’ and 'low carbon' energy into the EU.

The words of Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath sums the EU situation up perfectly. “Unfortunately it takes a disaster like the one in Japan for EU's decision-makers to acknowledge these risks. As the Chernobyl accident showed 25 years ago, the EU is vulnerable to the impacts of possible nuclear disasters in its immediate neighbourhood”.

See the full bankwatch report HERE

Whenever I read of the increasing number of nuclear plant accidents that we were told 'could never happen' I am reminded of the words of J. Robert Oppenheimer when the first nuclear weapon was unleashed upon Japan; "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds".

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Japan who now, after surviving earthquake and Tsunami face the ultimate nightmare of an uncontrollable and unseen nightmare created by mankind. Once the Nuclear Genie is out of the bottle it cannot be put back. The words we use to describe our species are Homo Sapiens; they mean 'wise man', I personally have my doubts.