We should be worried about the flood-proofing of our nuclear power plants, says Sue Roaf, while David Bridgewater argues for nuclear fusion, rather than fission. Plus letters from Dr Kevin Purdy, Dr John Doherty and John Starbuck

In Agneta Rising’s defence of nuclear generation (Letters, 19 September), she claims that nuclear plants have to occasionally stop for repair and maintenance. But jellyfish also get into seawater inlets, as at Torness in 2011, causing week-long shutdowns. Seaweed can block inlets shutting reactors, and operator incompetence shuts reactors and compromises radioactive cores. Torness was even narrowly missed by a crashing RAF Tornado jet. Most worrying are not such transient manageable events but risks of systematic flooding of nuclear sites.

Nine UK plants are assessed by Defra as currently vulnerable to coastal flooding (Report, 7 March 2012), including all eight proposed new UK nuclear sites and numerous radioactive waste stores, operating reactors and defunct nuclear facilities. EDF claims on its website that “to protect the Hinkley Point C station from such events, the platform level of the site is set at 14 metres above sea level, behind a sea wall with a crest level of 13.5 metres”. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 produced a maximum storm surge of 8.5 metres. It is predicted that sea levels may rise by a metre by 2100. The UK government cannot actually have believed in climate change or surely they would not put future generations at such risk?  I bet they believe in it now. The question is: do they care? Is it really too late to stop a retrograde, potentially catastrophic and already unaffordable UK nuclear future?
Emeritus Professor Sue Roaf
Oxford

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