Politicians both local and national will speak, but they won’t be seeking votes. The meeting was arranged before the election was called and its repercussions will extend a lot longer than the next five years.
It’s a matter literally of life and death. Potentially the lives and deaths of thousands, maybe millions, not yet born. Lives that may be centuries – possibly many centuries – in the future.
The question at issue is nuclear power. Specifically, whether or not a new reactor should be erected at Sizewell.
No one at the meeting in Woodbridge – where the chief guest speaker will be Baroness Jenny Jones, who represents the Green Party in the House of Lords – has the power to give Sizewell C either the red or green light. But they can make the public more aware of an issue that affects all our lives, and will do so more than many realise.
The building process could cause huge disruption locally. The aftermath could be grave over a far wider area.
Some quite serious people argue that nuclear power is necessary to help us meet our commitment to curbing carbon emissions and slowing global warming. It should give pause for thought that the one party that makes environmental issues its top priority thinks otherwise.
It is true that the age of fossil fuel is drawing to a close. And none too soon, either. The evidence has been around for a long time – and is now overwhelming – that burning coal, oil and gas in great quantities has a devastating effect on the world’s climate.
Humanity’s addiction to oil has caused wars and economic calamities too, but that’s almost a side issue.
So we need, desperately, to move on. But to what?
There are numerous possibilities, some of them quite exciting. What is required is a mix of energy sources. All feeding into the system, no single one so dominant that its failure would bring the whole system down. Or so powerful that whoever controls it controls everything.
Wind power is perhaps the most obvious, the most visible, right here right now. Frankly, I don’t understand those who object to it. No, it can’t provide all our needs, but then we don’t want it to – and it can make a valuable contribution.
As can solar power – even here. The Nevada Desert could power North America. Given the political will – and currently unfeasible co-operation between nations – the Sahara could probably power Europe.
Our rooftops could heat our homes. Our black road surfaces could generate a lot of the power it takes to travel on them. Then there’s wave and tidal power, and geothermal energy. There are even possibilities in rainwater. It’s all there, just waiting to be tapped.
Some of it may sound futuristic, but any of it could be on-stream a lot sooner than Sizewell C. Almost certainly at a fraction of the cost.
Endlessly renewable sources could already be powering everything we need if the billions poured into the great nuclear experiment had been spent instead on the right research and development.
Switching now from nukes to renewables would surely provide more jobs. And it would do all that without creating piles of deadly waste no one knows how to get rid of.
Without the risk of an East Anglian Fukushima or Chernobyl.
- The free public meeting “Sizewell C and Suffolk’s Environment”, looking at the local effects of the development plan, will be at 7.30 this evening in Woodbridge Community Hall.
- For more information on the issues, see sagesuffolk.com