"The problems with nuclear waste management are as great today as ever. Indeed, the more you look at the arguments for building a new generation of nuclear power stations, the more improbable it seems that any of them will ever be built. One of the most persuasive is that we have already 11 nuclear plants, nestling in their own contaminated hot-spots, which will be radioactive for aeons anyway. So, why not just replace these and maintain the nuclear status quo? It's becoming increasingly clear that even this argument is fatally flawed.
As the environment editor of the Sunday Herald, Rob Edwards, revealed at the weekend, a report commissioned by the nuclear waste executive, Nirex, has warned that we may not be able to store nuclear waste, or build new power stations, on their existing sites. The reason: global warming. One of the most predictable consequences of climate change is the melting of the polar ice-caps and the consequent raising of sea levels. It's already happening. Our existing nuclear stations were mostly built near the sea, at places like Torness, or Hunterston.
This means they stand to be inundated in the not too distant future. Needless to say, when a nuclear power station is submerged by sea-water, the contamination is literally unfathomable. It would make Chernobyl look like a central heating problem. No-one knows when, exactly, the seas might rise and engulf these plants – but we know it is going to happen. Yet the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management is expected to recommend soon the long-term storage of future nuclear waste at the existing Sellafield site in Cumbria. It would be criminally irresponsible to locate a waste repository or build new reactors on sites that are so manifestly unsafe. We simply cannot inflict this risk on humanity simply to prolong our current energy-profligate lifestyle for a few more years. We can no longer plead ignorance about global warming. This means looking for new sites inland. There hasn't been a planning inquiry into a new nuclear station since Sizewell B in the 1980s. That took nearly five years. Imagine what it would be like trying to site 10 new Sizewells today near centres of population? It just isn't going to happen."
Even if planning permission was given (or more likely by-passed), the demonstrators would have a field-day during construction and they would probably attract the sympathy of significant parts of the population. But if there are to be no new nuclear facilities, what do we replace them with? It seems doubtful if renewables can fill the gap.
Meanwhile, our esteemed First Minister dodges the issue (here at First Minister's Questions last week):
"We will argue for a balanced energy policy and state clearly our position that we will not support further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved."
which is a cop-out, if ever there was one.