RICHARD Shepherd (Letters, Dec 16) surely cannot think that, in future, UK nuclear power will only be subsidised via guaranteed electricity prices (“strike prices”) for new power stations like Hinkley C. British taxpayers already massively subsidise the processing of power station radioactive waste: DECC’s figure for existing power stations is £2.5 billion a year, every year, for a long while to come; DECC’s estimate for decommissioning Sellafield – which processes that waste – rose from £47 billion in 2009 to £67 billion in 2012 (quoted on The Guardian website). Possibly the total decommissioning cost of Sellafield, plus defunct power station reactors, will be £100 billion (UK NDA).
Then there’s the cost of a long-term underground storage facility. Prof Stuart Haszeldine, University of Edinburgh, who has thoroughly researched waste disposal, estimates a cost of £30 billion: he compares this project with building the Channel Tunnel.
Crucially, nuclear power station operators won’t carry full liability insurance against a Fukushima-type incident – we will. And while estimates for the final Fukushima clean-up were $58 billion in August 2013, the Japanese government has just proposed a cap of $77 billion (Bloomberg, Dec 17). That’s just the money bill – no price put on human misery. Furthermore it wasn’t some ecoradical but Naomi Hirose, President of TEPCO (Fukushima’s operators), warning that Britain’s nuclear managers “should be prepared for the worst” and learn lessons from his power station’s meltdown.
The great thing about wind power, is that while you can indeed see wind turbines, What You See Is What You Get; with nuclear, you never know – either economically, or as regards risks to both Man and Nature.