In response to an article penned by the Principal of Alde Valley Academy for the East Anglian Daily Times, Pete Wilkinson, Chair of TASC wrote the following reply. Unfortunately his letter was not printed in the paper. 


Is it the limit of the Principal of Alde Valley Academy Mr Mayhew’s vision and ambition for local students (Sizewell C will offer students fantastic opportunities for generations to come – EADT 3/4/20) to encourage them to look forward to a career in a factory which produces poisons of 200 different varieties? Is it the limit of his expectation that the widespread destruction of the environment, the intrusion on areas of outstanding natural beauty, the loss of historical woodland and the transformation of a peaceful, rural area into an urban desert of 24 hour a day noise, light and dust for a ten year period is a suitable aspiration for his students? If so, then Mr Mayhew needs to open up his school and expose his students to some home truths about nuclear power and just what price they will be expected to pay for what he considers to be these ‘fantastic opportunities…for generations to come’, a view from a senior educational professional that many will find as short-sighted as it is risible. 

How many of the planners, scientists and environmental experts his students have met hold or have been allowed to express critical opinion of nuclear power? How many are not in the pay of the nuclear industry or agencies which support it because it is ‘government policy’? How many debates between supporters and opponents of Sizewell C have taken place in the school? How regularly are the students exposed to the wide range of views about the necessity or the wisdom of pursuing a nuclear element to the energy policy rather than the one-sided, sycophantic and slavish justifications trotted out by the ranks of politicians and nuclear cheerleaders who still believe that nuclear power is the future, when progressive countries around the world are phasing it out?

How many students in Mr Mayhew’s charge know that electricity demand has fallen by 16% over the last decade, or that lethally toxic and radioactive nuclear waste will be left on the Sizewell site for at least 160 years, possibly indefinitely, or that there is still no universally agreed means of managing the 500,000 cubic metres of legacy nuclear waste, let alone the hotter and more radioactive waste which will be generated by Sizewell C? How many know that, globally, new nuclear build is falling behind the growth of renewables and that the cost of nuclear escalates while renewable costs tumble? How many students are told that the effects of internal low level ionising radiation exposure on the health of the young and unborn has historically been misunderstood and under-estimated by international regulatory bodies? How many students know of the range of radionuclides generated by the decay of uranium in the reactor core and their individual poison characteristics, how they accumulate in the body and in the environment?

Mr Mayhew believes that it is important for us to show young people that they can find fulfilling work here in Suffolk and that there is no need to leave their hometown. We would all agree with that. But the answer to that is not to embrace a nuclear project simply because it’s on your doorstep. Some projects are simply too disruptive, dangerous and costly to support. Some, like Sizewell C, are capital intensive rather than labour intensive and offer only hundreds of long-term jobs not thousands as are generated by the renewables sector. But perhaps the final irony of Mr Mayhew’s eulogising of Sizewell C is that all those students who may not have to leave their hometown because they have secured work at the nuclear plant may, one day and God forbid, be forced from their homes in the event of a major and unforeseen accident or terrorist incident which results in a major release of radioactivity. In such an incident, large areas of Suffolk would become uninhabitable for decades, livelihoods would be lost, homes abandoned. Just look at the on-going situation in Fukushima. 

So neither Mr Mayhew nor the rest of us need Sizewell C and if he is sincere in his view that he really wants it, he needs to up his game and do his students the sort of service they deserve. Show ambition. Embrace the future of energy conservation, micro-technology, decentralisation, efficiency and the exciting and vibrant world of renewable technology rather than propping up the broken and discredited technology of nuclear fission. 


Pete Wilkinson

Chairman Together Against Sizewell C (TASC)