Nuclear waste dumped in Romney Marsh? Some questions..

Currently there is enough nuclear waste stored in the UK to fill the Royal Albert Hall 6 times over and now they want to bury it under our feet right here in Kent. Plans have been mooted regarding Romney Marsh’s suitability to become the site for an underground long-term nuclear waste disposal store. Apparently it is a consultation and no decision will be made until we, the people have our say.

However for us to have a valid opinion, we need to know all the facts. Make no mistake, the consequences of our decision to allow nuclear waste to be stored under our feet, will affect this whole area for tens of thousands of years.

I will say up front I am totally against it. I think it is madness for us to willingly allow the most dangerous and toxic substances on earth to be stored here and it is tantamount to us playing Russia roulette with our future. There are no upsides to it save one. The carrot on the stick of ‘much needed jobs for the area’.

There is not much in the official website regarding the risks of long term storage. Worryingly, those in favour of it, seem to be filled with an evangelical zeal and the naysayers are treated as heretics. Below are some of my heretical concerns and questions.

The pro-wasters smugly laugh at any who air their concerns about the dangers and ridicule their lack of ‘scientific knowledge’, nothing could be safer they knowingly inform us. Although, here’s the thing. They don’t know if it’s safe or not, no one does. That’s because it has never been done anywhere in the world before, ergo, no one knows if it’s safe or not.

This is surely something to be concerned about? The Germans built underground storage 30 years ago and announced it would last for thousands of years, it is currently being dug up and the waste rehoused as it is deemed as unsafe. The Americans spent billions building a site but have now abandoned the project before it was used, over concerns for its safety.

Romney Marsh is being used as a guinea pig for long term under-ground nuclear waste storage and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Does that fact fill you with confidence?

The logistics of under-ground storage are full of dangers and uncertainties too yet there does not seem to be too much by way of fscts in any official information. Some of the dangers are:

Overheating of the nuclear waste which generate immense heat.
The disintegration of the actual waste containers.
Chemical reactions in the waste repositories.
Integrity of the waste repositories.
Pathways to the environment.
The biological effects of the escaped wastes.
Risks of heat or gas formations.
Geological uncertainties.
The effect of sea flooding on the Marsh.
What if there is an earthquake?.
What if there is a terrorist attack?.

Author Dr Helen Wallace comments on these concerns when she says people need to ‘grasp the enormity of the challenge’. 

‘We’re talking about trying to contain this waste for a greater amount of time than human beings have been living on the planet, so although [we] might be able to predict the consequences over a short time scale, that’s an enormous scientific challenge’.

‘This waste is extremely radioactive and very hot so it’s going to significantly change the water flow deep underground; the corrosion of materials and the repository will release large quantities of gas which have to escape somehow.’ She warned the waste will ‘remain dangerous for many generations’.

Nor does all scientific research say it is totally safe either. A recent report, prepared by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, admits that ‘the knowledge and technological base available today is not yet sufficient to permit complete confidence in the safety of any particular repository design or the suitability of any particular site.’

30 years ago they were putting nuclear waste in metal oil drums, filling them with concrete and tossing them in the sea, where they remain to this day, rusting. But now we somehow ‘know’ for a certainty that geographical disposal is the safe option? Forgive me if I choose to remain cynical.

If this thing gets built how long do you think it will be until the Government starts selling this highly desirable nuclear waste storage site as an option to other nations? No country wants to store this stuff, so we could become a dumping ground for Europe’s or even the World’s nuclear waste. Our Government and Shepway Council would rake in billions from this but at what price for our children and future generations?

Finally, lets return to the only selling point for having thousands of tons of radioactive material buried under our feet, much needed jobs. I’m guessing that the contract to run the facility will be given to an outsourced specialist company. Most of the jobs available to locals will be Mc-Jobs, like minimum wage security guards or cleaners etc. Where will the new employees that come from out of town, live? Will new houses need to be built to house them? What about capacity at the local schools and the infrastructure in general, what will happen to that?

There is good reason that no one else in the world wants this most dangerous of substances stored any where near them or their children. The implication of this facility malfunctioning could be catastrophic and long reaching. For us to be able to make an informed decision we need open and transparent discourse and all of our questions need to be answered.

What we don’t need is to be spun into making a decision, blinded by the chance of ‘well paid jobs’ that is currently being dangled in front of us, on a stick.

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