The facts about nuclear power

Why it is: Dangerous - Bad For The Environment - Unaffordable




Our new Q and A Fact sheet has been compiled to help you counter the lies, half truths and mis-information of the nuclear industry.


For instance - did you know that far from being very unlikely, the actual odds of a Fukushima style nuclear disaster at the proposed Oldbury site are 1 in 200 in its lifetime! And that's just at one site. The more nuclear power stations we have in the UK, the more those odds shorten for a devastating accident somewhere in the UK.


And did you know that the Government's own report into Oldbury in 2005 said that the Oldbury site was unsuitable for the storage of nuclear waste, and that all radioactive material must be removed?


Find out the truth about the lies and deceit surrounding the nuclear industry here.

Q AND A FACT SHEET - 16 reasons why nuclear power must stop now


New Nuclear Power Station at Oldbury

The Facts


The Government is telling us that Nuclear Power is safe and that we need it to fill the energy gap which will be on us in a very few years. Neither statement is true.


The group STAND Against Oldbury is opposed to Horizon/Hitachi’s proposals to build a huge new Nuclear Power Station at Oldbury-on-Severn, Glos. The reactors will be 4 times the size of the present ones and additionally there will be 3 or 4 cooling towers, 77 metres above ground level. It will be a very ugly and very dangerous eyesore on the banks of the Severn.


Here are answers to some questions you may have.


1. Q. Who are Horizon?

A. They are a new company, formed in January 2009, based at the Business Park Gloucester.


They have no experience in designing, constructing or running a nuclear power station.


They were originally financed by two German energy companies – EON and RWE- who pulled out in November 2012 following the German Government’s decision to stop Nuclear expansion in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Every other company in the world capable of taking on the task, including the UK’s own Centrica, refused to tender. Hitachi stepped in in January 2013.


Hitachi / Horizon are planning to build 2 nuclear plants, one at Oldbury and one at Wylfa in North Wales. They have no experience in working together to develop nuclear power stations.

Source: Construction Enquirer

2.Q. But Hitachi have lots of experience in nuclear power don’t they?

A. They have been involved in building 4 Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) in Japan. These are only licenced in the USA, Japan and Taiwan but not the UK at the moment.


They have been plagued with problems to date, generating less than 50% of their planned output.

Source Wikipedia AWBRs.


Hitachi built one of the reactors at Fukushima, saying at the time it was tsunami and earthquake proof.


3. Q. The old Oldbury site seemed a good one for the old nuclear power station, so it should be suitable for the new one shouldn’t it?
A. The Government’s own Nirex report says that the site will be inundated in less than 100 years and recommends that all nuclear material from the present site be moved away. Horizon admit that flooding is a problem and say they will build up 7 metres above ground level before they start building reactors and cooling towers.
Source: Nirex, p13

There is a lot of evidence of flooding in the Severn Estuary due to exceptionally high tides and storm surges and possibly a tsunami. It makes this site particularly unsuitable for producing and storing radioactive material.
Source: University of Wales Research
Source: Research Online


4. Q. Isn’t nuclear power essential to fill the energy gap?

A. No. The Government say there will be an energy gap by 2018. The new station at Oldbury will not be on line until 2028 at the very earliest. It will be 4 years before they get approval from the Government for the generic design – a new ABWR . Then they are going to build a station at Wylfa in North Wales (earliest commission date 2024) – to iron out any problems there first as they admit Oldbury will be a difficult site. In contrast, many forms of renewable energy (wind and solar power, biomass, tidal lagoons, etc) can be brought on stream within 3 to 5 years.
Source: Tidal Lagoon, Swansea


5. Q. Won’t a Nuclear Power Station bring lots of jobs to the area?

A. There will be short-term jobs during the construction, but when built, Hitachi will then be using mostly Japanese workers for the Nuclear Engineering who have the experience of this sort of reactor. It is estimated a total of 1,000 jobs will be permanent at the Oldbury site.

Source: Western Daily Press, quoting Horizon


Compare this to the 27,000 permanent jobs that investing less money into alternatives would bring to the Forest of Dean alone
Source: Green Party


The best estimates show that a like-for-like investment in wind power will create at least 12 times as many jobs as that same investment in nuclear; a like-for-like investment in solar power will create at least 360 times as many jobs as that same investment in nuclear. Investing in energy efficiency creates more jobs than investments in any form of generation.
Source: Jonathon Porritt, Ten Killer Facts


6. Q Isn’t Nuclear Power a cheap energy source?

A. No, and it never has been, even if you ignore the final decommissioning and waste disposal costs. EDF, the company who intend to build the new nuclear power station at Hinkley in Somerset, are demanding a guaranteed price of twice that granted to alternative energy sources and are asking for £10b from the Government before starting.


The 2010 / 2011 liability for cleaning up our existing nuclear programme was around £7 billion. This translates into a liability of £350 per household per annum – 8 times the subsidy that is available for renewables. Total liabilities for the nuclear power programme (including decommissioning) amount to more than £70 billion.
Source: Jonathon Porritt Ten Killer Facts
Letter to PM by J Porritt Tony Juniper , Charles Secrett and Tom Burke


7. Q Radiation from nuclear power generation is said to be a fraction of the background radiation we are all exposed to naturally. So why worry?
A. The comparison with background radiation, X-rays, etc is very misleading. As part of the day to day running of a Nuclear Power station, radioactive particles are released into the air, settling on local vegetation and into cooling water. In the river Severn, radioactive particles settle in the mud. At low tide the mud will dry out and the particles may become wind-borne. Unlike background radiation these particles may be ingested via food, water or air and enter the body to lodge there and continually bombard the surrounding cells with damaging radiation. They produce very serious genetic changes leading to cancers and other health effects.
Source: Radiation and Public health Project


In 1984 a cluster of childhood leukaemias was identified by the group Severnside Campaign Against Radiation, SCAR, in and around Lydney. This was one of several clusters close to other Nuclear Power Stations including Sellafield in Cumbria. All clusters were deemed to be too large to be a coincidence and locally the link with radiation from Berkeley and Oldbury was made by many epidemiological and medical experts.


8.Q. Have there been any serious nuclear accidents?

A. There have been at least 4 huge accidents and thousands of minor ones.


In 1957, at Windscale, Cumbria (since renamed Sellafield) a huge release of radioactive gas spread a plume right over Northern Europe. Due to a human mistake in the control room a fire raged in the plutonium piles. Workers were sent in relays to use scaffolding poles to frantically push out hundreds of fuel cans to try and make a fire break around the fire.


Then they tried to pump in carbon dioxide gas to try and smother the flames, but the heat was such that oxygen was produced from the gas and thus fed the flames higher. The scientists then had to gamble on flooding the reactor with cooling water. The risk they were aware of was that explosive hydrogen and or acetylene gas could be created and then flash over into an explosion. As this critical decision was being taken the temperatures were climbing by 20 degrees a minute. "We had to ensure a real torrent of water" Mr Davey told a News reporter."Too little water could have resulted in the release of hydrogen, so we pumped water in at the rate of 1,000 gallons a minute and kept on pumping it."


This treatment went on continuously for three days and gradually the temperature inside the pile began to fall. By Sunday night the pile had cooled off to such an extent that only a small volume of water was necessary to keep it at a safe level."
The accident was played down and the only safety precaution was to throw away milk within 200 square miles.
Source: lakestay /windscale
Source: BBC News


At 3 Mile Island Pennsylvania in 1979 a near disaster was caused - not by a single mistake but a combination of technical and human errors - which the industry claimed was impossible.


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's authorization of the release of 40,000 gallons (about 150,000 litres) of radioactive waste water directly in the Susquehanna River led to a loss of credibility with the press and community. In the end the reactor was brought under control, although full details of the accident were not revealed until much later, following extensive investigations by both a presidential commission and the NRC.
Source: Nuclear.Org info


At Chernobyl, Ukraine, the disaster began during a systems test on Saturday, 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant. There was a sudden and unexpected power surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, an exponentially larger spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of steam explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat.


The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus. New-born lambs in North Wales are still being slaughtered every year as being too radioactive to eat as a result of the radioactive fall-out from the accident.

Source: BBC news


The accident at Fukushima, Japan was caused initially by earthquake damage followed by further damage by inundation of the plant following a tsunami.


The flooded emergency generators failed, cutting power to the critical pumps that must continuously circulate coolant water through a nuclear reactor for several days in order to keep it from melting down after being shut down. As the pumps stopped, the reactors overheated due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown. As the water boiled away in the reactors and the water levels in the fuel rod pools dropped, the reactor fuel rods began to overheat severely and melt down. In the hours and days that followed, Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced full meltdown.


Best estimates of the clean-up costs for Fukushima indicate a liability of not less than $250 billion. Japan’s national debt will increase by as much as $150 billion as part of this.



Radioactive water is still leaking into the Pacific Ocean. Tepco who run the Fukushima plant admitted in early August that a cumulative 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium may have leaked into the sea since the disaster.
Source: BBC news

As well as the three most serious accidents there have been many other, less serious over past 60 years.
Source: Ranked list of accidents – The Guardian


9.Q. Have people needed evacuating after a nuclear accident ?

A. Yes – after 3 Mile Island the evacuation zone was a 20 mile radius. Within days, 140,000 people had left the area.


At Chernobyl, from 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. In order to expedite the evacuation, the residents were told to bring only what was necessary, as the authorities had said it would only last approximately three days. As a result, most of the residents left their personal belongings, which are still there today. An exclusion zone of 30 km (19 miles) remains in place today, although its shape has changed and its size has been expanded. 120,000 people have not been able to return home.


At Fukushima A nuclear emergency was declared by the government of Japan on 11 March 2011. The Japanese government initially set in place a 4 step evacuation process; a prohibited access area out to 3 km from the plant, an on alert area 3–20 km from the plant, and an evacuation prepared area 20–30 km from the plant. These evacuation areas were based on radioactivity levels above 20 mSv.


On day one of the disaster nearly 134,000 people who lived between 3–20 km from the plant were evacuated. 4 days later an additional 354,000 who lived between 20–30 km from the plant were evacuated. Later Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued instructions that people within a 20 km (12 mi) zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant must leave, and urged that those living between 20 km and 30 km from the site to stay indoors. The latter groups were also urged to evacuate on 25 March. About 160,000 who fled are still living in temporary housing.

Source: Wikipedia


10. Q What would happen if there was an accident at Oldbury?
A. For a serious accident, evacuation would be necessary
If it were like Fukushima, people would need evacuating from a 30k zone – which would mean people living in Stroud, Dursley, half Gloucester, half Newport, all of Forest of Dean and all of Bristol would need evacuating. However, the Forest of Dean, Bristol and Gloucestershire Councils say they have no plans for evacuation.


In the US there is much talk of evacuation plans in the press and at Congress. In the UK there is nothing.
Source: ensnewswire

Source: Huffington Post

11. Q. Aren’t the chances of a serious accident infinitesimally small?
A. The claim by the nuclear industry that the chance of a nuclear accident is infinitesimally small is not borne out in practice. Since 1957, there have been four very serious nuclear reactor accidents that we know about: Windscale 1957, Three Mile Island 1971, Chernobyl 1986, and Fukushima 2011. That is an average of one serious nuclear accident every eighteen years. Since there are now 450 nuclear plants in the world, it is not unreasonable to predict that any particular nuclear plant has a one in 8,100 chance of having a serious accident in a particular year, or a one in 200 chance over a forty-year lifetime.


Clearly, this is not an acceptable risk. Although it is claimed that new reactor designs will be inherently safer, this is only a theoretical claim. In any case, some of these new designs are untried, such as the one proposed for Oldbury.


Are you are happy with the odds of one in 200 that this proposed Oldbury plant will have a serious accident in its lifetime?

Source: World Nuclear Association
Source: John Urquhart, epidemiologist, Newcastle University

12. Q. Can we insure our houses against a nuclear accident?
A. No. You cannot buy a private insurance policy to protect your home against nuclear accidents. All insurance companies exclude radiation from their policies. The Prudential and other companies call it an "uninsurable risk".


13. Q. Can nuclear waste be disposed of safely?
A. In spite of years of attempts to find a site for highly radioactive waste, nowhere has been found in Britain after 60 years of producing this waste.
In 2013 Cumbria County Council refused plans to have a Nuclear waste storage facility built in the county.


Four sites have been named as potential dumps for Intermediate level radioactive waste, and one of these is Berkeley!
Recently Horizon have admitted that they will be storing nuclear waste on the new Oldbury site. In an interview with Rob Harris of the Forester Leon Flexman, Head of Corporate affairs for Horizon confirmed that high level nuclear waste would be stored on site.
Source: Forester 2013-07-02


The 2010/2011 liability for cleaning up our existing nuclear programme was around £7 billion. This translates into a liability of £350 per household per annum – 8 times the subsidy that is available for renewables. Total liabilities for the nuclear power programme (including decommissioning) are conservatively assessed to amount to more than £70 billion.

Source: Jonathon Porritt


14. Q. Can Nuclear Power stations be protected against terrorists?
A. After the 9/11 terrorism act in the US, a local TV company hired a plane and had it fly unchallenged up the river Severn over Hinkley, Berkeley and Oldbury nuclear power stations to show how easy it was.


There are other ways terrorists could strike, so no installation could be terrorist proof. The consequences would be catastrophic. And every movement of radioactive material is vulnerable – transport of fuel rods to and from Sellafield by road and rail for example is commonplace.


15. Q. What happens to nuclear reactors at the end of their life?
A. It takes hundreds of years to decommission Nuclear Power Stations and is very costly. The old Oldbury and Berkeley Reactors will be there for at least 100 years. The fuel rods are removed and taken to Sellafield – but then there is no way to deal with them so they are stored in huge water tanks.


Some active elements of the nuclear process will remain radioactive for thousands of years.

The current estimate by the United Kingdom's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is that it will cost at least £70 billion to decommission the 19 existing United Kingdom nuclear sites.

Source: Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

16. Q. What other energy sources could we use?

A. We need to use a whole range of renewable sources - tidal, wave, solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass. We also need to have an effective energy efficient policy on new buildings and all domestic and commercial users need to find ways of using less electricity.


Germany has already installed more wind power than the entire UK nuclear capacity. Every year it installs the wind power equivalent of one new nuclear reactor. It will be building no more nuclear reactors.


Renewables alongside conservation of energy are cheaper and better.

They are cheaper than nuclear power (taking account of all subsidies – ie taxpayers money).
They can provide greater security in energy supplies than nuclear power.
They are substantially more effective than nuclear power in cutting emissions of CO2.
They can be built much faster than nuclear power stations.
They can easily meet all our needs for energy, now and for the foreseeable future.
They provide more flexibility than nuclear power.
They provide diversity in energy supplies.
They are MUCH safer.


Source: Union of Concerned Scientists
Source: Renewable energy Network


17. Q. What can I do?
A. Join STAND Against Oldbury – sign on to get our newsletter, come to meetings, join our demonstrations, write letters to local and national press, to Councillors and our MP, and the Secretary of State for Energy.


Share this website with neighbours and friends. Talk about this issue with whoever will listen!


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