The controversial Sellafield nuclear fuel plant has closed, just 10 years since it was commissioned in the 1990s. The plant opened in 2001 and in that time it has made just 15 tons of fuel at a cost to the tax payer of £1.4bn. That is a staggering figure.
If ever there was a time to evaluate the environmental and economic cost of nuclear it is now. Friends of the Earth's policy and campaigns director, Craig Bennett, is quoted as saying: "Yet again taxpayers are footing the bill for the Alice in Wonderland economics of the nuclear industry. This money could have been spent developing the UK's vast renewable energy potential, creating new green jobs and business opportunities."
The closure will take several months as the plant is decommissioned and about 600 people will lose their jobs.
Japan's March 2011 tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant incident has led to increasing concerns about nuclear power in Japan and globally. Sellafield's main customers were the Japanese nuclear industry.
Yet, the UK government is saying that Sellafield's closing has "no implications" for any of Britain's proposed new nuclear reactors. Expect increasing questions to be asked about the number of new UK plants – it looks set to become an increasingly hot potato.
Meanwhile, in Japan itself, residents near the Fukushima Daiichi plant have commendably taken to buying their own dosimeters to test for radioactivity. The meters cost around £400.
Despite no radiation readings having being made in some areas, officials have been telling residents that their villages are safe. But, the dosimeter readings show otherwise. Also, local officials are taking more direct responsibility and action. Keiichi Miho, the mayor of Nihonmatsu, a city west of the Daiichi plant, is spending millions on creating a radiation map of his city.
We are all increasingly discovering the real costs of nuclear. But, as those of you who read Permaculture magazine will know there are also a number of options being developed. Perhaps it is about time our industry and government seriously invested in our potential renewable energy options. What is also increasingly clear is that, in the words of Patti Smith, "people have the power" to ask the questions that they wish to be answered and to design a future they want.