What pleasing news to see Cumbrian Councillors dismiss proposals to store nuclear waste under the Lake District National Park. Placing one of the UK’s natural wonders into the shadow of a potentially toxic menace would have been crazy, even though there is still a nuclear power station within just a few miles of the fells. This huge development would have been the environmental equivelent of taking the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and holding a stag night on it, covering it with hot dogs, beer, fag burns and sick. Not that all stag nights are like that. But a radioactive one might well be. Everyone would be, ahem, nuclear wasted. But in an age when it’s commonplace to see elected officials put the purse strings first, it was pleasing – and a little surprising – to hear that the plans had been rejected, on the grounds of common sense. What’s more concerning was listening to political analysts in the moments after the decision saying that the government could well try again to tempt Cumbrian councillors with a different package or set of terms. Surely “no” means “no” here?
With every council in the country now ruling out the prospect of housing nuclear waste, there is a real issue for the government. But also an opportunity. The problem boils down to the face that we need more and more energy. Looking about my house right now, I need energy for the laptop, my phone, the stereo, TV; the list is a long one. And I expect it to be on tap. Not literally, that would be dangerous, but you know what I mean. Realistically, nobody is willing to drastically cut down on their energy usage, so the electricity needs to be created somewhere – and more and more of it. If the government continues to go down the nuclear route, then the nuclear waste will also need to go somewhere. Or – and here is the opportunity – the government could take a leaf out of Germany’s book. In Germany they decided to scrap their comittment to nuclear power after the Japanese tsunami disaster and have now embarked on an ambitious drive towards increasing sustainable energy. Many believe the UK government needs to do this as well, though while I am writing this I can almost hear the anti wind farm lobby creaking into life like a 5MW turbine on a breezy day. The fact is Germans are being given ownership of the wind turbines near their homes on the premise that if they own it the wind farm becomes something they are proud of rather than something they object to. It’s an interesting idea. But just as people objected strongly to the nuclear waste issue, there will always be the NIMBY crewe fighting against wind farms spoiling their view. We can’t have it both ways if we want the power.
As for me, I think I’d have a massive wind turbine in my garden if I could, or have a dozen covering the the hill that I can see from house. It’s not in the National Park and I would take pride in knowing that my area was producing a surplus of power. Yes In My Back Yard! I’m a Wind Farm YIMBY. There are not many of us!
Give a listen to this week’s Costing The Earth to see how Germany is going on. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01q8mqh/Costing_the_Earth_Berlins_Big_Gamble/