Book review: Going Nuclear by Mabon ap Gwynfor
Mike Hedges – MS for Swansea East
This is a review of “Going Nuclear” – a book written by Plaid Cymru Senedd member Mabon Ap Gwynfor. Mabon and I are elected members of different political parties but on this issue, we are in total agreement.
The book looks at the claims of the nuclear industry and how the civil and military nuclear projects are linked and, also the effect of uranium mining on the communities where it is carried out.
Whilst Mabon and I are opposed to both nuclear weapons and nuclear power even if your views are different this is an informative book to read which is evidence based and looks at the issues that are part of the nuclear debate.
Nuclear technology is an amazing feet of human ingenuity based on the work of some of the greatest twentieth century physicists. It is also highly destructive and produces highly radioactive waste that lasts for hundred of thousands of years.
It looks at the mining of uranium and the effect it has had on the environment and Indigenous people in Canada and Australia.
In 1953 the American/ Canadian geologist and prospector Franc Roubin got funding to drill for diamonds in the Lake Huron area and this led to the discovery of vast quantities of Uranium in the area.
The project was sold as an opportunity for jobs for the men of the serpent river first nation. Mined Uranium needs to be milled and the ore leached with sulphuric acid which is a highly corrosive acid.
It became clear that the mining of uranium was dangerous to health not just of those involved in mining and processing but everyone living in the area. The environment was damaged not only by the sulphuric acid but by the waste from the processing that was discharged into the local rivers and lakes.
Did Australia have a better experience? The answer is unfortunately no. In the 1950s and 60s there was a mine in the Australian Northern territories where the mine contaminated the local river which continues to be contaminated today.
A new mine called the Ranger mine was opened in the Northern territories in the 1970s with the same calamitous effect on the environment and the local people.
Various reports have shown that the Aboriginal people in the area suffer more still births, cancers, congenital malformations, and other illnesses than other Aboriginal communities in the northern territories.
We are all familiar with the dreadful loss of life following the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but not everyone is aware of the effect on health for the survivors and future generations after the bomb was dropped.
Not everyone is aware of the effect of nuclear testing on people living near the American and Russian test sites.
We are also aware of the dangers of nuclear power and the disasters at three-mile island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima are well documented. Mabon explains the long-term effect on an area like Trawsfynydd when a plant that has not had an accident but has still got the problem of dealing with the nuclear waste.
The legacy left behind is a highly contaminated site. Two arguments that are met head on in the book are that nuclear power is essential for medical physics and that nuclear power is a clean source of energy helping us move to net zero and debunks both.
By the 1990s nuclear power was seen as an ageing technology whose time had come and gone. We continue to have plans for new nuclear reactors for the energy sector but with decommissioning costs under written by the government and cost of development being met by government then some new nuclear power reactors have been commissioned.
The book looks at how nuclear power, nuclear reactors in the nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear weapons are interrelated. Mabon addresses this via a clear admission from rolls Royce that their SMR programme of small nuclear power stations will be used to develop talent and skills for the nuclear propelled submarines.
Nuclear power reactors like the hovercraft were 1950s technologies which have proved to be blind technological alleys and like the hovercraft needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Calder Hall was an early development heralded as the future in the 1950s since then it has gone through name changes to Windscale and Sellafield, but concerns remain about pollution in the Irish sea.
Since then, each nuclear power station has over run on both cost and time but most importantly as technology progresses the expectation is that efficiencies drive the price down has not been met.
This is not a book only for those opposed to nuclear weapons and nuclear power but for those interested in nuclear weapons and power.
As the author says this is not a comprehensive piece of work no book of 184 pages could be, and there are many arguments for and against the nuclear industry, what this does is add to this important debate.
Going Nuclear by Mabon ap Gwynfor is available to buy here.
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