Andy Blowers: The Great Tide of 31 January/1 February 1953 swept down the east coast of England, carrying death and destruction in its wake. Communities were unaware and unprepared as disaster struck in the middle of the night, drowning over 300 in England, in poor and vulnerable communities such as Jaywick and Canvey Island on the exposed and low-lying Essex coast. Although nothing quite so devastating has occurred in the 67 years since, the 1953 floods remain a portent of what the effects of climate change may bring in the years to come. Since that largely unremembered disaster, flood defences, communications and emergency response systems have been put in place all along the east coast of England, although it will only be a matter of time before the sea reclaims some low-lying areas. Among the most prominent infrastructure on the East Anglian coast are the nuclear power stations at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, constructed and operated in the decades following the Great Tide. New nuclear power is presented as an integral part of the solution to climate change. But the ‘nuclear renaissance’ is faltering on several fronts. It is unable to secure the investment, unable to achieve timely deployment, unable to compete with much cheaper renewables, and unable to allay concerns about security risks, accidents, health impacts, environmental damage, and the long-term management of its dangerous wastes. It is these issues that will be played out in the real-world context of climate change. There is an exquisite paradox here. While nuclear power is hubristically presented as the ‘solution’ to climate change, the changing climate becomes its nemesis on the low-lying shores of eastern England.
Beyond Nuclear 6th Dec 2020 read more »