Unproven UCG Technology To Be Used Near Sellafield

imagesWith Sellafield Power Station just 10 miles away, the people of Whitehaven are used to having energy generation on their doorstep, writes Mel Kelly.

But now residents from Whitehaven to Worthington have a new dangerous power source to worry about as the government has issued a license for Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) to be applied from the edge of their stretch of shoreline up to 12km out into the Irish Sea.

The government have issued a license, to a former Tory Party fundraiser’s new company, Cluff Natural Resources, to burn millions of tons of coal under the sea, using the Underground Coal Gasification method (UCG) to try to generate gas – using technology even the company states is unproven offshore.

UCG is only at the trial stage in just about every country in the world and 2010, 2011 and 2012 reports from America, Australia and India all reported major groundwater contamination with cancer causing chemicals toluene and benzene – the safe limit for benzene is zero – i.e. there is no safe lower limit.

UCG also causes subsidence, both above and below ground, as burning the coal leaves unsupported caverns which collapse, spewing out the toxic sludge left behind by the UCG process.

Australia banned Industrial Scale Commercial UCG just weeks ago, despite extensive trials using world leading technology as the companies in the trials have still not been able to demonstrate a safe decommissioning process after the coal has been burned.

Despite tight monitoring and control by the Queensland government, a private company involved in one of the trials, Cougar Energy, covered up groundwater contamination for two months resulting in the trial being halted. The farmers can no longer use the water bores. The company is currently trying to change its name to try to disassociate itself from these events in case it scares investors away.

The UK government has taken no heed of the Queensland government’s vast experience and their decision to ban UCG until it is fully tested and ready and, without conducting any trials in the UK, the government is allowing private companies to forge ahead.

The government claims on the Department of Energy And Climate Change website the EU trial of UCG proves the technology is feasible – but what the government don’t tell us is the EU trial was a complete disaster which had to be abandoned because a pipe got blocked and caused an explosion which no one could stop or control.

With that in mind, should unproven technology, which is known to cause subsidence and has resulted in explosions be used anywhere near Sellafield power station?

What would happen in the event of an explosion once the UCG facilities are operational, especially as pipelines will be required to bring the gas to the mainland? Could an explosion be contained from the gas pipelines

What other toxic contamination risks does unproven UCG technology pose to the people living the area? Will the sea they bathe in be contaminated with UCG carcinogenic chemicals?

What other toxic contamination risks does unproven UCG technology pose to the people living the area? Will the sea they bathe in be contaminated with UCG carcinogenic chemicals?

When our government, unlike the government of Queensland, refuses to set up UCG trials before issuing licenses, can we trust the ministers involved have taken any of this into consideration?

What risk assessments have they undertaken before issuing a UCG license just 10 miles from a Nuclear Power Plant? Have any tests been undertaken with UCG near a Nuclear Power plant in any of the worldwide trials? Would any other country even undertake trials with unproven technology near a nuclear power plant?

With people in Fife and Warwickshire already urgently asking questions from their respective Energy Ministers, regarding this UCG technology, which has been unexpectedly forced on them, with absolutely no prior consultation, the people of Whitehaven have Sellafield to add to the UCG equation including unknown, untested and unproven technology.

Should we wait until a combined Nuclear/UCG disaster happens or should the questions be asked of coalition government ministers now?

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