Meltdown on my mind

image of surfing near fukushima

Hugo Tagholm of SAS alerted me to a leaked report from the European Commission   that raises issues not just for the general population but also for surfers.

The report indicates that lots of European nuclear power stations may be unprepared for the type of impact that devastated Fukushima in Japan. Of the 134 EU nuclear reactors grouped across 68 sites, 111 have more than 100,000 inhabitants living within 30 km (18 miles). Billions of euros are needed to make them safe. The lesson of Fukushima was that two natural disasters could strike at the same time and knock out the electrical supply system of a plant completely, so it could not be cooled down.

In the UK there are nuclear power plants on the Severn Estuary at Hinkley Point and Oldbury, upstream from North Devon and Cornwall. On the south coast there is Dungeness to the east of Brighton. On the east coast there is Sizewell and on the north coast of Scotland near Thurso there is Dounreay. A failure of any of these would release radiation into the atmosphere and sea.

The report does not refer to the UK’s preparedness, but a report earlier this year for the UK government indicates that while ‘broadly safe’ there were 38 issues for improvement, including flooding and emergency preparedness.

Neither does the EC report appear to address the threat to nuclear power stations from climate change. This is largely because they need huge amounts of water for cooling so are usually on the coast or big rivers. They are therefore more vulnerable to flooding and heat waves when the river flows drop. Power plants in France already have to reduce power production in summer. So ironically, while nuclear power can contribute to reducing future climate change it is also vulnerable to climate change. Moving power plants inland will be very costly and – in somewhere like the UK – be difficult to avoid large towns and cities. So nuclear isn’t the silver bullet that will solve our energy and climate needs alone.

This means that surfers who care about the environment that they and future generations will live and surf in, have to take a responsible view to renewable energy on the coast or offshore. It has to be part of a future low carbon energy solution, but its impacts on the environment and surfing have to be assessed and mitigated.


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