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The News Line: Editorial Crazy UK capitalism won’t dump disaster prone nuclear power GUNTHER Oettinger, the EU’s energy commissioner, has compared the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster – with its repeated explosions of nuclear material and the destruction of millions of people’s homes and lives – to an ‘apocalypse’ .

He said: ‘We want the safety of all reactors to be reviewed in the light of events in Japan. It has to raise the question of whether we in Europe, in the foreseeable future, can secure our energy needs without nuclear power?’

In fact, the EU is already split on the issue. Austria has a total ban while France has 58 nuclear reactors producing 80 per cent of its energy. Germany relies on nuclear power for 23 per cent of its electricity but has a freeze on the construction of new reactors. Britain operates 19 reactors that provide a fifth of the country’s electricity.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, has reacted to the Japanese disaster by declaring ‘to say to the French that we are going to give up nuclear power would be lying’.

The British government has the same position in relation to the planned programme for building ten new nuclear power plants at a cost of £50bn.

The Japanese ‘apocalypse’ comes after the Three Mile Island near meltdown in the US, the Chernobyl disaster and the numerous emergencies that have taken place in the UK at the Windscale – now Sellafield – plant in the north-west.

As long ago as October 1957 Britain spread a plume of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere from a nuclear reactor fire at Sellafield.

On October 8, 1957, a technician was heating up the reactor. Because of the inadequacy of the temperature measuring instrumentation, the control room staff mistakenly thought the reactor was cooling down too much and needed an extra boost of heating. An estimated 20,000 curies of radioactive iodine escaped along with other isotopes such as plutonium, caesium and the highly toxic polonium. The public was not informed about what was happening.

In the days that followed a dangerous cloud of ‘fallout’ was carried in a south easterly direction towards cities in the North of England. The scientists were unsure how to deal with the raging fire. They had to gamble on flooding the reactor with cooling water. As this critical decision was being taken the temperatures were climbing by 20 degrees a minute. In this case the gamble succeeded.

In fact nothing as far as the ‘gamble’ is concerned has changed since then.

WikiLeaks leaked US intelligence cables show that Japan was warned nearly three years ago by the IAEA that its nuclear power plants were not capable of withstanding powerful earthquakes. The IAEA said in December 2008 that safety rules were out of date and strong earthquakes would pose a ‘serious problem’ for nuclear power stations.

The Japanese government responded by building an emergency response centre at the Fukushima plant, designed to withstand magnitude 7.0 tremors. Friday’s devastating earthquake was a magnitude 9.0 shock.

Yesterday the LibDem Energy Minister Huhne warned that there was an ‘on-going potential risk’ that investors would lose their appetite for nuclear power. Huhne added he was urging not to ‘rush to judgements’ on the nuclear sector, and criticised EU leaders for doing so.

Only fools and agents of the bosses will ignore the ‘final warning’ over the dangers of nuclear power that the world has received from the Japanese catastrophe.

Britain’s nuclear power stations must be decommissioned as soon as possible and a new energy programme based on Britain’s gigantic coal reserves adopted. ‘Clean’ coal must replace nuclear power and quickly.

Everybody knows that the pits were closed, with over 100,000 jobs lost, not because coal could no longer provide the energy needed, but because the Tories were determined to get rid of the NUM. From this came the driving force for the nuclear power programme in the UK.

This programme must now be consigned into the dustbin, despite the inclination of the capitalists to carry on regardless and risk even bigger catastrophes than has struck Japan.
 
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