2015 Elections

When you don’t want to vote for a sectarian party in Northern Ireland, you’ve always been limited. When I was growing up, the only realistic choice was the Alliance Party because it was the party of people who were just not happy with the “situation”. It was a safe harbour but it never really got … Continue reading “2015 Elections”

When you don’t want to vote for a sectarian party in Northern Ireland, you’ve always been limited. When I was growing up, the only realistic choice was the Alliance Party because it was the party of people who were just not happy with the “situation”. It was a safe harbour but it never really got anywhere and their fortunes have waned as participation in voting has decreased.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good Friday Agreement showed that the people do care. There were 200,000 people who voted Yes who then never voted again. They cared enough to turn out and vote but they were totally turned off by voting for our local parties. Could it be that the choices were just bad and ugly? You could vote for the same old crap, the same old crap or the same old crap. And it ushered in a whole new series of complaints, corruption and, possibly worst of all, the Petition of Concern. That weapon has been used to inflict the worst travesties of injustice I have ever seen.

Left, Right, Left

Obviously last year a group of mostly lefty lunatics banded together to create NI21 in the hope it could give more choice, no, a better choice for everyone. It was easily conceived, attracted more than its fair share of criticism from the media and was endlessly attacked by political rivals (especially those who were from non-sectarian parties). But for those of us who helped, it cemented some friendships but really it showed us that we, the disaffected, were not alone. But we were quickly leaderless and while that Titanic mess was sinking, the senior members of the party were bailing out with thimbles.

All Things Are Not Created Equally

I feel we have been let down most of all by some of the non-sectarian parties in our midst. Those who would quickly remind us they have heaps of LGBT members (and even some politicians), have failed multiple times to whip their elected members into supporting the Marriage Equality bills that have been considered by the Assembly. At the last count, Alliance (the part of equality) managed to field only 50% of their MLAs with a Yes vote and even that was whipped by their leader (the party whip was conspicuous in his absence from the vote).

The Grass is Always Greener

Thankfully things are a little better now. In North Down (where I live), we have managed to carve out a bastion of anti-sectarian politics in the form of the Green Party. It’s clear that I’m not going to agree with all of their policies*, especially the anti-science policies.

  • The Green Party would increase funding into the research of holistic medicine, oppose regulation of complementary and alternative medicine. Why not regulate?
  • The Green Party would oppose GMO foods because they are unquantifable, rather than increasing research to it. What?
  • The Green Party are opposed to Stem Cell research. Full stop. Because of unknown consequences. What?

And many of their economic policies like their EU stance and their party policy on taxing goods from outside Britain. Which is fine if we’re going to return to a mostly agrarian economy. And their ideas on a wealth tax, although welcome, are completely out of touch with reality; they could be well served to look at France in that respect.

I can’t vote for the SNP in Northern Ireland. I had hope, last year, we would see the creation of a new country in Europe which would usher in a new exemplar to follow. I’ve been incredibly impressed with Estonia and Croatia in ways that Northern Ireland could have emulated. But even with a £10Bn annual gift, Northern Ireland couldn’t pull itself out of poverty.

17 thoughts on “2015 Elections”

  1. It’s bizarre the Green Party is so anti-science and logic. You would think they would be embracing science with it’s clear warnings on Climate Change and Environmental studies. Instead they read like a fundamentalist religious organization.

  2. Part of the problem is their traditional audience are the crystal-wielding cranks. And policies are added by sticking your hand in the air at a party conference and suggesting something.

    So as they haven’t been able to attract proper brains, their policies are brainless.

    This is why they don’t want to regulate pseudo-science that doesn’t work and they want to treat their ignorance by not looking at things further.

    So, the theory goes, if we can get some better quality brains in there, the policies will improve.

    1. Hi Eamon,

      The risks of nuclear outweigh the advantages IMO. There’s the deadly process, the risk of deadly contaminated water or steam, the risks of spent fuel rods, the dangers of enriching the fuel, the risks of an accident and the risks of potential terrorist activity.

      Also. You live in Japan. We may not live in an earthquake or tidal zone but why take the risk.

      If some scumbag manages to plant a bomb on a solar farm, the loss of life would be minimal.

      1. Hi Matt,

        I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘the deadly process’, but on the other points you raise aren’t showstoppers for me:

        Contaminated water: largely contained with in the Dai-ichi site. Minimal levels of radionuclides offshore. Contaminated water being purified.

        Spent fuel rods: cool rapidly enough in water to be air-cooled after a year. The much-touted ‘cladding fires’ would require complete inaction by authorities, and would not have anywhere near the effect some ‘experts’ claim.

        Fuel enrichment: Spent fuel is pretty useless for a bomb because it contains large amounts of Pu 240. This causes bombs to “fizzle”, a premature reaction which decreases the yield of a bomb significantly.

        Risks of an accident: TMI, no fatalities. Chenobyl, 60. Fukushima Dai-ichi, no fatalities. The latter two do have exclusion zones – but it is worth noting that Chernobyl was a poor design, and Dai-ichi was hit by a historically unprecedented tsunami. Dai-ichi’s reactors were also old designs. The evacuation zone around Dai-ichi is noticably shrinking with remediation work.

        New reactors (and some old) are much safer by design – they fail-safe, and will have Dai-ichi’s lessons incorporated.

        Most of the UK’s current nuclear plants are extremely safe – they use CO2 as a coolant, and so cannot experience hydrogen explosions like those at Dai-ichi. The onlt one which does not use that system has hydrogen recombiners to counter that hazard.

        As for terrorist attacks – where could they hit in a nuclear plant that would assure devastation? Could they take out the armed police that handle security around these sites? Could they prevent the employees from SCRAMming the reactors?

        As for living in Japan, well – we’ve been steadily increasing our greenhouse gas output since the shutdown of the nuclear plants. I see that as a much bigger hazard.

        1. What do you do with spent fuel rods after they’re cool? Make school playgrounds out of them?

          Largely contained? Minimal levels? That’s politician talk. We’re not talking about a bit of fertiliser run off or the amount of gluten in gluten-free bread.

          The entire process of the nuclear industry is dirty and dangerous. It’s only been acceptable because yields are high and we have areas of the country where there’s more demand for employment than safety.

          1. Hi Matt,

            sorry for the late reply. Busy.

            The subject of spent fuel rods brings up the question: what do we do with the leftovers/byproducts of our power production systems?

            We could just as easily ask:
            What do we do with a hydro dam past its sell-by date?
            What do we do with solar panels after their useful lifetime?
            What do we do with the arsenic that geothermal power brings up to the surface?
            And the biggie: What do we do with the industrial waste that is a byproduct of producing our power systems.

            The answer is not to dump power systems which have a deleterious effect on the environment. It is to assess the scale of the problem, and assess mitigation strategies.

            Going back to the spent fuel rods – of course they are not going to be used to make school playgrounds. Neither are old solar panels. The spent fuel rods are going to have to be stored, which is not a technical problem. Furthermore, if industry is allowed to build reactors like the GE PRISM design, then those rods can be used as fuel – and also converting the long-lived radioisotopes to much shorter-lived ones.

            I will have to disagree with you on the provenance of phrases like “largely contained” and “minimal levels”. In my experience they get used in science a lot.

            Finally, you say “The entire process of the nuclear industry is dirty and dangerous”. But how dirty, how dangerous? As dirty and dangerous as coal, oil, gas? I think a comparison of the mortality rates for those three vs. nuclear would show which was truly dangerous. Renewables also have their bad points – from industrial effluent in some production, to hazards like dam collapses, and air polution from biomass.

          2. That’s a heap of immoral equivalency, Eamon. We COULD grind solar panels down and use them as paving substrate, we can’t do that with used fuel rods.

            With Solar panels, you can generally expect a useful life of 30 to 40 years. Module manufacturers basically offer a 25 year warranty at an efficiency loss of no more than 20%. The bigger issue is that solar is increasing in efficiency year on year at the moment so that an investment made 5 years ago is actually not cost-efficient based on an investment made today. But by far, both are better than condemning someone else to deal with fuel rods.

            All manufacturing has some sort of deleterious effect on the environment and yes, it is about assessment and mitigation but why bother mitigating something that is a horrendous outlier. This isn’t about whether nuclear is cleaner than coal or oil; that’s a specious argument. We have current needs for fossil fuels in our consumer infrastructure that can’t be solved by nuclear or solar/wind.

            And I’ve not said that solar panel production or wind turbine production are free from bad points. Opponents always point out how there is bad stuff® when we manufacture a solar panel. When you compare that bad stuff to the entire process of fossil fuels or nuclear, then you see the reality. All of them involve some sort of mining, that’s unavoidable. They involve transport of raw materials, refining, processing and manufacturing. And with solar, that where the bad stuff stops. With fossil fuels and nuclear, the bad stuff just keeps on piling up – such as the efficiency and waste products when fossil fuels are burned in our cars to the ‘what the hell do we do with it’ of radioactive waste. Not to mention that if your final shipment of product goes overboard from your container ship in a storm, the reactions are very different.

            • Don’t worry, the panels will just sink and rust.
            • Oh shit, that oil spill just ruined the tourist industry for an entire region. And the fishing industry.
            • No, due to the radioactivity, I wouldn’t eat the shellfish here for….maybe the next millennium

            The only positive I see with nuclear is that it produces huge amounts of energy. That, in itself, promotes energy wastage. I want a post-scarcity future without the compromises of not being able to eat shellfish.

          3. Ok, you could use the glass in solar panels as a paving substrate. There would be a lot of them available. But that was not my point. Spent fuel rods can’t be used to make paving aggregate – but they could be reused as fuel.

            As for nuclear providing a lot of energy being a source of energy wastage – how does that square with all the claims for renewables which tout the increasing percentages of energy generation in countries such as Germany? Should we be cutting back on that sort of thing?

            As for the thought experiment on shipping loads overboard I would rewrite the last bullet as:

            Even though the shipping container for the fuel rods designed for that contingency, are recoverable, and even if left alone will not add a large amount of radioactivity to the sea – the press and other organisations will say it portends doom.

            As for shellfish – the Irish Sea has a higher level of radioactivity than any sea or ocean in the world – yet there seems little effect.

            On that point I’ll link to a report on Fukushima’s effect on the oceans, and sign-off for now.

            http://www.tos.org/oceanography/archive/27-1_buesseler.pdf

          4. I’m wary of RT’s statements on total releases:

            According to a series of statements from the company, groundwater leaks ended up in as many as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium reaching the sea.

            TEPCO gives a range of 700 billion to 10 trillion Bq sr-90 reaching the port, not the sea. The port has silt barriers to stop radionuclides reaching the sea.

            Ref:http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/water/images/130930_01.pdf

            The pumps are used to transfer tainted water from a drainage channel to a channel that leads to an artificial bay in front of the station, enclosed by a fence.

            This is the same drainage channel which was affected by contaminated run-off water in February. That did not affect radionuclide levels offshore either. That would imply that the stoppage of the pumps will have little or no effect on sea contamination.

          5. This is where I bring it to a close as I’m not really interested in debating relativism. Fossil and nuclear have very similar characteristics throughout their life cycle.

            I’m not denying solar and wind have environmental costs during their construction, much as fossil and nuclear, but after that initial investment, there is simply no comparison.

            You can decry evidence though I picked one from a list based on a thing that happened the day before – I didn’t have to search much. And the horrific breaches of the past indicate the risks and we are building up a list of “could never happens” that actually have happened.

            I’ve laid out my stall, I’m not saying you have to purchase from it.

          6. I don’t think we’re going to agree on this topic, but I leave you with one thought:

            Why is it that only one site on the web, Hiroshima Syndrome, actually reporeted on the conclusion of the pumping issue:

            Pumping restored after 12 hours.

            To my mind it’s because so many news sites don’t want the initial fear-hyping headlines to go away.

          7. I brought up the issue of the pumping because it happened the day before. It wasn’t the only issue, I’m sure there will be an issue again, and just because one site picked it up it doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy.

            In truth, it was one of many links. And it would not have been picked up by the mainstream media because it’s not dramatic enough. If there are no explosions, three headed-fish, or people with amazing powers.

            We can agree to disagree, but anyone who picks nuclear over solar and wind in 2015 with a yard of hindsight and an inch of forward scanning is mental.

            I will presume that my anti – nuclear stance is the only area of disagreement

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