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Britain’s nuclear industry is greatly threatened by climate change

The next ‘Great Tide’, Exposed to rising tides and storm surges, Britain’s nuclear plants stand in harm’s way, Beyond Nuclear International, By Andrew Blowers, 4 Dec 20,

“……………….Apart from Hinkley Point C, which will probably struggle on through a combination of political inertia and a nuclear ideology increasingly remote from economic reality, there remain two projects – Sizewell C and Bradwell B – still in the frame, although precariously so. For both sites, climate change may prove the showstopper. These coastal, low-lying sites are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, flooding, storm surges, and coastal processes.

This was recognised as an issue in the rather equivocal statement that accompanied designation of the sites in 2011. Referring to Bradwell (similarly to Sizewell), it was considered ‘reasonable to conclude that any likely power station development within the site could potentially be protected against flood risk throughout its lifetime, including the potential effects of climate change, storm surge and tsunami, taking into account possible countermeasures’. …..

About a quarter of the world’s nuclear power stations are on coasts or estuaries. The sites on the east coast and Severn Estuary are especially vulnerable to flooding, tidal surges, and storms. Potential impacts include loss of cooling and problems of access and emergency response in the event of a major incident and inundation of the plant, including spent fuel storage facilities.

In areas like the east coast of England, natural protection from saltmarshes, mudflats, shingle beaches, sand dunes and sea cliffs has been rapidly declining. Recent projections indicate substantial parts of the coast below annual flood level in 2100 and a loss of between a quarter and a half of the UK’s sandy beaches, leading to extensive inland flooding. The problems of managing such coasts through adaptive measures such as managed realignment and hard defenses may be insuperable in the uncertain circumstances of climate change over the next century. It seems imprudent and irresponsible to contemplate development of new nuclear power stations in conditions which may become intolerable.

Climate predictions have focused especially on the period up to the end of the century, by which time planned new nuclear power stations starting up in the 2030s will only just have ceased operating. At the turn of the next century the legacy of today’s new build will become the decommissioning wastes of tomorrow, adding to that already piled up in coastal locations. ……

Beyond 2100 sea levels continue rising and the radioactive legacy of new nuclear power stations will remain at the sites, in reactor cores and in spent fuel and waste stores exposed to the destructive processes of climate change. It is predicted that decommissioning and clean-up of new build sites will last for most of the next century.

The logistics, let alone the cost of transplanting, decommissioning and decontaminating the redundant plant and wastes to an inland site, if one could be found, would be well beyond the range of managed adaptation. The government’s claim that it ‘is satisfied that effective arrangements will exist to manage and dispose of the wastes that will be produced from new nuclear power stations’ is an aspiration, and by no means a certainty……..

December 7, 2020 - Posted by | climate change, UK

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