Yesterday’s Western Mail contained an outline of the processes involved in decommissioning a nuclear power station. I can’t find the story online, but it doesn’t really matter – with a few changes of verb tense, it was identical to this story published in the same paper in December last year. (As I commented yesterday in relation to another issue, I suppose it saves on the cost of journalism.)
The article itself set out the steps which need to be taken to decommission a nuclear power station, in a process which is planned to take a total of 90 years. In the case of Trawsfynydd, we’re already more than 20 years through the process – only another 70 to go. In the case of Wylfa, we’re just starting; almost all of the people born this year in Wales will be dead before the job is finished, to put things in a human perspective.
Wylfa 2, if it is ever built, is scheduled to produce electricity for 60 years before its own 90 year decommissioning process starts. According to the plans, the company which runs the site for those 60 productive years will be paying for the 90 years’ decommissioning process at the end of that. I doubt it – that’s not the way capitalism works. The belief that any profit-driven company will put enough money aside over six decades to fund an essentially unknowable cost over the following nine decades strikes me as being akin to believing in fairies.
But worse still is that no-one knows what to do with the waste recovered in the decommissioning process. As the report to which I linked above puts it: “Meanwhile, everyone is crossing their fingers and hoping that someone will find a safe place to bury it before [the 2040s]”. Yes, that’s right – it depends on a vague hope that someone will come up with a solution which has eluded us for the past 50 years.We can’t do much other than hope for a solution in relation to the nuclear stations which were built so optimistically in the 1950s and 1960s. We’re stuck with the legacy of nuclear waste bequeathed to us by those who took the decisions at the time. We can do something, though, about the legacy that we leave to our great, great, great, great, great grandchildren in relation to Wylfa B. We could resolve not to leave them the same legacy that was left to us, by not building the plant in the first place.