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Jeremy Corbyn was once a high-profile opponent of nuclear power – what happened?

Jeremy Corbyn was once a high-profile opponent of nuclear power – what happened? 88

The announcement by the shadow business and energy secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, that Labour will target “net zero” emissions by 2050 is of course welcome for anyone interested in achieving a low-carbon economy. But the party is plugging in to an existing and growing movement, rather than leading the way.

Indeed, several governments, including those of of New Zealand and Sweden have already endorsed zero emissions, along with companies such as Unilever and Tesco, as well as a cross-party group of British MPs. Even the prime minister, Theresa May, recently announced that the UK will join the Carbon Neutral Coalition, hopefully signalling a step towards a net zero target.

So, the pledge itself might not be radical, but it will still be difficult for the UK to achieve. Transforming energy systems is technically, socially, economically and politically complex and Labour’s announcement was backed up a briefing on aspects of how it might be achieved. It foresees rapid growth of both offshore and onshore wind, as well as solar power. It will also require a much-needed concerted effort to improve domestic energy efficiency, particularly in the use of heat in our homes.

But the briefing only gives a partial picture and the scope and feasibility of the plan is yet to be established, as full details will only be revealed later in the year.

Labour is split over nuclear power

The lack of detail raises lots of questions, but one of the most politically interesting is what role new nuclear energy might play in Labour’s vision of a net zero future. Long-Bailey’s speech did not mention it. The background briefing does, but only in passing. And the final, complete report is not yet out. So how much of Labour’s renewables pledge and net zero target depends on new nuclear stations being built?

At the heart of this lack of clarity is the split in the Labour Party about nuclear power – and at the heart of that is Jeremy Corbyn. Back in the day – pre-leadership – Corbyn was a high-profile opponent of the nuclear issue on both environmental and proliferation grounds. None of the problems with nuclear waste and plutonium which so concerned him then have been solved, but his approach has shifted, leading to some awkward exchanges as people seek to understand what his views are now.

Most notable among these was the painful Copeland by-election in 2017. Copeland is home to Sellafield, the heart of the UK’s nuclear waste industry, and the seat was solidly Labour for decades.

Jeremy Corbyn was once a high-profile opponent of nuclear power – what happened? 89
Sellafield, Cumbria.
Ashley Coates, CC BY-SA

Corbyn’s nuclear position was a key focus of by-election campaigning, with the Conservatives highlighting his statements opposing the nuclear industry generally and new nuclear power in particular. Despite a last-minute endorsement from Corbyn for a new nuclear station at Moorside near Sellafield, Labour lost the seat, with a lack of belief from voters on this new nuclear stance widely identified as a reason.

Elsewhere in the party, though, nuclear power is seen as an intrinsic part of the UK’s energy future. Long-Bailey is very keen on it, for instance. This side of the debate reflects the accepted political paradigm that achieving climate targets won’t be possible without nuclear power.

This view, though, is a paradigm – a recognised and unquestioned way of thinking about what is “acceptable”. It hasn’t really been challenged since new nuclear power was endorsed in the 2008 Nuclear White Paper. Since then the energy world has changed. The cost of renewables has plummeted, storage has emerged as an increasingly viable option for managing the fluctuations in solar and wind power, and increased interconnection between the electricity systems in the UK and Europe are providing new opportunities for balancing power.

Coupled with this, the UK’s nuclear plans are floundering because of the high costs associated with new stations. Hinkley Point C requires much higher subsidies than was envisaged in 2008 – and financing of other new projects such as Wylfa and Moorside have led the government to think about measures such as partial nationalisation as a way of managing the construction and financial risks. This isn’t what the White Paper promised.

So, when Labour’s energy plan is finally published, the issue will be one of the most fascinating. Will the party endorse new nuclear plants, despite their ever present financial problems? It seems likely that it will, because there has been no detailed examination of the case for new nuclear power for ten years – instead, both the Conservative and Labour have generally accepted that nuclear is necessary in a world of climate change.

This is a real shame. One of the opportunities that putting forward a new vision of the UK’s energy systems offered was a new way of thinking about things. From this perspective, just accepting that nuclear power is an inevitable part of the energy future is lazy thinking which fails to recognise the changing energy world. If Labour really want a new, radical energy plan, it needs to reassess the nuclear paradigm.

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Planet Earth

Polar vortex: “wild” winter is coming in the US, Northern Europe and East Asia after the 16th of January

Polar vortex: "wild" winter is coming in the US, Northern Europe and East Asia after the 16th of January 96

In the upper atmosphere above the North Pole, experts saw a rapidly swirling vortex of cold air that could bring severe frosts to the United States, Northern Europe and East Asia. Serious cold snap and snowy weather are expected after January the 16th.

Snowfalls and a cold snap hit South Korea since the start of 2021, hitting historic snow maximums and temperatures. In the country, for the first time since 1964, television and newer communications are sending people cold snap warnings:

The situation is similar in Japan, where a new snow storm hit historic highs:

On January 7, the thermometer In Beijing dropped to -20 degrees Celsius, breaking the 1966 record. In other regions of China, the temperature is also not sugar, and you can only move around in special uniforms:

The cold even reached Taiwan, where the temperature in some areas dropped below freezing point, snow poured down and people realized that rice terraces can be used as a ski jump:

Even more snow went to Spain, where on January 6, 2021, a temperature of -34.1 ° C was recorded – the lowest on record. After that, a snow storm hit the country, which has not been seen for 80 years:

The same thing happens in Canada and in the northern states of the United States:

It seems that after a stratospheric warming, the subpolar vortex began to split:

The vortex itself is a standard phenomenon. However, this time experts were surprised at his movement. It is possible that in the near future it will be divided into two parts. 

Scientists associate the strange behavior with the changed climate in the Arctic, which has become warmer. From September to December, the amount of ice cover decreased significantly.

The polar vortex is a low-pressure region located in the stratosphere and filled with cold air. When the jet stream of air that holds the vortex weakens, the low pressure area moves south. 

As the ice shrinks, more moisture will move inland. It will turn to snow, so snowfalls are expected. Snow, in turn, reflects heat, leading to a cold snap.

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Hospital in Naples was evacuated after a new, huge sinkhole appeared

Hospital in Naples was evacuated after a new, huge sinkhole appeared 97

Eyewitnesses said they heard a loud crash at dawn when a huge hole in the ground formed outside the Ponticelli Ospedale del Mare hospital in eastern Naples.

Early in the morning of January 8, 2021, a sinkhole occurred in the parking lot of a clinic in Naples. The depth of the formed cavity is about 20 meters, the total area of ​​the hole is about 2,000 square meters.

No casualties were found at the scene; firefighters say the sinkhole “affected an area of ​​about 500 square meters” and engulfed several cars parked near the hospital.

As the press writes and as a little can be seen from the videos, rescuers and firefighters were running around the pit together with the governor of the area.  But who should be there in the forefront are Italian geologists, since Naples stands in the very center of the volcanic system known as the Phlegrean Fields.

If the surface collapsed, moreover – the surface reinforced with concrete and reinforced from below with some kind of communications, then we are talking about serious soil deformations caused by the activity of magma.

Italy has been in doubt since the summer of 2020, because swarms were observed there in very atypical places in May, and according to the forecasts of old Italian seismologists, who had witnessed many strong earthquakes, it should have boomed in the August region.

Fortunately, nothing bad happened to Italy and there was no big earthquake. But, since there are swarms, it means that something is being prepared, the magma is gathering strength. 

Following this particular sinkhole event – an obvious sign that a major earthquake in Italy is already very close.

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Planet Earth

A new great pandemic cycle has begun (again) in China

A new great pandemic cycle has begun (again) in China 98

In the first months of 2020, the whole world with a certain fright followed the events unfolding in China, where people fell on the streets during the day and astronauts wandered, and in the evening crematoria began to smoke. And now, with the onset of December, the cycle seems to be repeating itself.

Shunyi area in Beijing, where the authorities announced “wartime status” the day before. As you can see in the videos, thousands of people are lined up in the queue for mandatory testing:

Dalian city, where “wartime” is also declared. Neighborhoods are blockaded, people are walled up in entrances, familiar characters of George Lucas roam the streets:

Chinese ‘rescuers’, before performing a combat mission:

Chengdu City:

Daluo Port, Yunnan – tourists came for adventure and they received the ‘time of their life’ after leaving the ramp:

If something happens in Beijing, it does not mean that tomorrow the same will happen everywhere. However, the trend towards such dynamics is observed and, as the practice of the first wave of the pandemic has shown, all countries and people, to one degree or another, have taken into account the ‘Chinese experience’. 

Therefore, one must think that everything will now be in peace, as in spring – a new global round of the fight against the Covid has begun in China, a new great pandemic cycle!

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