There is no dispute that coal is a dirty fuel and also that coal generates radioactive byproducts too – radioactive byproducts which are largely vented into the atmosphere. But here’s the thing – you can’t actually make a bomb, dirty or ‘clean’ from coal ash. What’s more, if you wanted to dispose of the ash you could just stuff it back down the mine or quarry that it came from – we have enough abandoned workings after all. We just don’t have the political willpower to do so. Ash is largely safe – yes, I know about the heavy metals and other pollutants in the ash – but generations of Welsh communities have demonstrated that it’s quite possible to live your life and raise your family in the shadow of the ash pile. Perhaps not nice and yes, fatal if it slips onto your head, but ultimately fairly safe. Besides, after years of plant growth (yes, plants can grow on an ash pile – some even like it), the ash pile stabilises – and many of the nastier waste products get locked up.
Good luck doing that with current, and even next generation, Nuclear reactors. I’d rather live in Aberfan than Pripyat. Even the most vocal adherent of Nuclear has to admit that ash is easier to deal with than nuclear waste.
I don’t actually have a problem with building Nuclear – provided we know what we’ll do with the waste. And we don’t. We keep lobbing ideas around, none of which work so far, and the piles of toxic and radioactive waste continue to build. And the two Nuclear solutions which seem to be cleanest (Hybrid reactors – which would reduce the overall amount of high level waste – theoretically, they could ‘burn’ waste from other reactors, and burn old nuclear warheads, and Fusion) are either too expensive or too impossible with current technology or lack the political will to implement. So yes. Fuck new Nuclear until we do the job cleanly and properly.
But (whinge, whine, moan) we won’t have enough power if we don’t have nuclear! Boo Hoo. Turn your computer off at night. Buy less gadgets. Get rid of your energy hungry plasma TV. Recycle. Reuse. Use public transport. Problem solved. Sure, you’ll have less toys – but you’ll also have a cleaner world. You’ll thank me for it one day.