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This programme examines two aspects of the debate concerning the development of a nuclear powered energy programme. Harold Belter, Director of Information for British Nuclear Fuels, argues that the... risks entailed in developing the industry are far outweighed by the benefits that will accrue to society in the long term. Walt Patterson, energy spokesman for the environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth, claims that the development of the nuclear industry will create such dangers that the very structure of our society will be threatened. The programme takes the form of two separate sections in which Harold Bolter and Walt Patterson separately argue and develop their philosophies. Much of the argument centres on the intention to expand the reprocessing plant at Windscale to cater for overseas reprocessing, and the programme was recorded in and around this plant. More specifically, the programme considers how decisions regarding the development of the industry are made and what implications this process has for the type of decisions that are taken. As the arguments unfold, two very different conceptions become evident of the type of society for which we are now heading.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: D203, Decision making in Britain
Item code: D203; 10; 1977
First transmission date: 29-06-1977
Published: 1977
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:00
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Producer: Susan Boyd-Bowman
Contributors: Harold Bolter; Chris Pollitt
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Contamination; Environmental control; Nuclear processing; Plutonium economy
Footage description: Chris Pollitt introduces the programme from the site of the Calder Hall Nuclear Power Station, Windscale. He outlines the area of debate the programme will cover, which is whether the difficulties of reprocessing and storing nuclear fuel are so great as to cast doubt on the whole future of the nuclear power programme. Harold Bolter Director of Information for BNF gives a resume of his firms position on the costs and benefits of reprocessing nuclear fuel. This presentation is interspersed throughout with shots and views of the Windscale reprocessing plant and the Calder Hall power station. He argues that BNFL welcomes an informed debate on the nuclear issue. Looking around the Windscale site which holds within it all types of nuclear power stations he points out the value of uranium as a source of energy and the number of jobs that would be created by a nuclear programme. Shots of flasks containing spent fuel being taken into the reprocessing plant, where it is stored. Harold Bolter describes the safety regulations which control the use of radioactive materials and the national and international bodies who regulate their use. Shots of construction work on cooling coil tanks used for storing highly active fission product waste. Harold Bolter describes how they work and their relative cost compared with the cost of power stations. He then talks about the merits of storing waste as a solid rather than a liquid. He talks about the enormous time scales involved in nuclear waste and the possible over-use of fossil fuels. He discusses the security needed to properly safeguard plutonium and the problems a would-be thief or terrorist would face. Various shots of scientists working with plutonium and uranium feed. He argues that atomic energy is best controlled through the political machine not his company. Shots of spent fuel being unloaded from ships and transported on trains. Harold Bolter gives the arguments in favour of accepting fuel from overseas for reprocessing. He describes the safety procedures built into the contracts and the full debate this issue had been given. He argues that the best energy policy for the future is one which combines the use of coal and nuclear fuels. A decision not to use nuclear fuels would involve a lowering of living standards and great social upheaval. Chris Pollitt now introduces the next speaker, Walt Patterson, energy spokesman for Friends of the Earth. He challenges the idea that there are benefits to be had from nuclear power. Windscale was never built as a commercial proposition and the full costs of reprocessing plutonium are not yet known. Coal can be burnt without massive investment unlike uranium. The resources poured into nuclear research could be directed into research into other sources of energy. The nuclear lobby has had too great an influence over government policy. Next Walt Patterson argues that safety standards for radiation levels have been tightening continuously. International Control bodies however still make their recommendations in terms of allowing for the expansion of civil nuclear activity. This presumes that there are advantages to nuclear power. But world supplies of uranium are not fully known. This mean a dependency upon plutonium and the need for high levels of security and centralisation. A state relying upon plutonium would be centralised, authoritarian and vulnerable to disruption. An alternative to this would be to develop decentralised systems which emphasise the production of heat rather than electricity. Summing up his case he argues that with the resources being put into nuclear programmes we could be doing something else much more promising.
Master spool number: 6HT/72298
Production number: 00525_2338
Videofinder number: 3409
Available to public: no