Jun 182011

Nuclear Power has always been a contentious issue. There have always been advocates for and against. International concerns about Climate Change, an impending energy crisis and the nuclear accident in Japan have highlighted the issues concerned. Jonathan Hamilton Russell writes.

For CND there has always been the concern of the link between the technology of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons. The Sustainable Development Commission chaired, at the time by Jonathon Porrit in 2006, produced a report for the then Labour Government stating unanimously that, following a detailed analysis of sustainable development factors, that Nuclear was not the preferred option.

This followed a Government White Paper in 2003 which had concluded that Nuclear Power was not an Economic Option. Several days after the Sustainable Development Commission reported, Tony Blair announced that Nuclear Power was to be an essential component of our future Energy Provision.

Recently high profile environmentalists James Lovelock and George Monbiot have been converts to Nuclear Power given their concerns about Climate Change and the resulting requirements to cut back on Carbon omissions.

The SNP have long championed alternative energy and have been against Nuclear Power, as have the Scottish and English Green Parties, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Jonathon Porritt, who was sacked as the chair of the Sustainable Development commission still sees alternative energy and energy conservation as the way forward.

We have had until recently a bonanza of cheap energy in Scotland and the UK and the public has become used to cheap energy and the ability to regularly drive, fly and live and work in centrally heated buildings. This situation will soon end. The reality of peak oil and the need to import Russian Gas have yet to be admitted to the public by most politicians, and the expectations of the general public is that the status quo remains.  Whatever decisions are made, there will be inevitable opposition to both nuclear power and alternative energy. Climate Change has already gone down the political agenda.

We have failed to invest and research sufficiently, concentrating our efforts on oil, gas and also nuclear

The costs of producing both Nuclear Power and Alternative Energy will be much higher than present costs and will require both increased public subsidy and will mean rising costs for the consumer. The costs are likely to reduce as we become more expert at production of nuclear or its alternatives.

The costs of South Korea’s Nuclear Reactors went down by 28% by the time they produced their 7th and 8th Reactors.

Safety measures have improved – the Reactors in Japan are 40 years old – and the safety technology no longer requires power from outside. However, the risk of human error intentional or otherwise and unknown hazards still exist. The costs of insurance are high and do not include de-commissioning. The potential hazards of storage of spent Uranium still remain to be seen. Only three councils have agreed to storage underground – all three being in Cumbria.

There is however still uncertainty of risk in relation to this method of storage. Storage and waste costs still have to be borne by government. Increased use of Uranium will lead to shortages as estimates are that about 100 Years worth still remain, and when it runs out what will happen?

There are concerns and restrictions in many countries regarding the mining of Uranium, and Kazakhstan – a Muslim country on Iran’s border – has the main stocks. The costs of Uranium are likely to increase if there is more demand. There has historically been considerable contamination of local communities when mining has taken place, and even with greater safety measures some risks will remain.

The alternative is increased energy conservation and the use of renewables. As identified by the Sustainable Development Commission the UK – and in particular Scotland – has the potential with tidal energy, wind power, carbon capture, waste and power, and solar developments to cover our energy needs.

However there are challenges. We have failed to invest and research sufficiently, concentrating our efforts on oil, gas and also nuclear. There would have to be significant resources put into research and design, and if we were also putting our efforts into nuclear then opportunities with renewable would be lost.

The recession will mean there is less money to invest. A much better use than cutting the cost of petrol in the long term would have been to use the money from taxing oil companies to pay for the development of renewable energy resources.

There would be problems both with nuclear and renewable as to where to place energy resources.

There has been significant public opposition both to nuclear and wind developments. The Crown Estate commission has powers in relation to developing resources at sea which would have to be overcome.

The North-East of Scotland has a huge potential for the development of renewable energy and the area would benefit from more focus on its development. The main problem I would suggest in relation to our future energy provision, is public expectations and politicians needs in terms of re-election. People have become used to private transport and cheap central heating and whichever way we go will be unpopular.

My own conclusion is, that spending on Nuclear Energy developments will divert money that could be spent on energy efficiency and renewable energy. There is a challenge in relation to needs in terms of peak usage – such as before Christmas – but these could be overcome by us linking into a European network of energy.

In historical terms Nuclear Power is just another short term fix whilst the opportunity of renewable energy will always be with us. In some countries which are landlocked, Nuclear may be the only possible route but given what has happened in Japan potential risks of location would have to be taken into account.

Pictures: © Mark Rasmussen | Dreamstime.com, © Devy | Dreamstime.com

Apr 072011

By Bob Smith.

Faar’s the likes o Tammy Mitchell
A provost wi nae falderals
Nae cavortin wi Acsef types
Or big lood moo’d Yankee pals

Provost Mitchell he spak the lingo
O the local North East lan
Ye aye kent fit wis
Fin Tammy shook yer haun

Nae mair chiels like Bob Boothby
Or mannies like yon Robert Hughes
Ye micht nae agreed wi their politicks
Be ye kent they’d peyed life’s dues

Jist mealie-mou’d gabbin gadgies
In the political scene the noo
Maist o oor Scottish MSPs
Shud bi on the bliddy Broo

Nae worthies in oor local council
Like Dick Gallagher or Alex Collie
Jist a bunch o maistly fearty fowk
An we greet at aa their folly

Nae muckle fish landed at Aiberdeen
Since the discovery o aa the ile
Nae mony fish market porters
Hiv ye seen noo fer a fyle

Nae chatter o riveters haimmers
Or the soond o tackety boots
Jist the noise o fower bi fowers
Driven bi billies in Armani suits

The young in oor wee villages
Canna afford ti buy a hoose
The reason is ower plain ti see
Incomers hiv bin lit loose

Fowk faa wark miles awa
In the toon o Aiberdeen
Hiv snaffled aa the village hooses
Or as holiday hames they’re teen

Nae mony local shops o ony note
Cos they’ve aa gin ti the wa
Nae langer a leevel playin field
Supermarkets hiv pinched the ba

We eesed ti hae a gweed paper
The P&J wis
aye breezy an bright
It’s nae langer kent as impartial
The pages are noo fu o shite

Nae chunce o mince an skirlie
At some funcy restaurant placies
The chef wid look doon his nose
An pull affa funny facies

The reason he wid gie ye
As he whisks up his blancmange
Is ye canna serve up skirlie
Wi a dish o Duck a l’orange

At Pittodrie I watched gweed fitba
Faar players talents war set free
Noo it’s aa blackboard tactics
Wi systems
4-5-1 an 4-3-3

N.E. culture some say is wanein
Bit the Doric it still huds fast
An as lang as we aye spik it
It’ll nae bi in the past

I’m sure ye’ll bi noo hae gethered
I’m haein a wee rant an rail
An if a happen ti lan in jile
Wull somebody please pey ma bail

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011


Jan 072011

By Fred Wilkinson.

Like many of our readers I’m sure, it is with mixed feelings that I take down the tree and pack away the baubles and tinsel. The old year is out, and the new one is suddenly almost a week in the making. For better or worse, normality returns and all the fuss is over for another year. Or is it?

In the Northeast village of Burghead in Moray, residents are looking forward with anticipation to their own unique annual Hogmanay celebration. Condemned in the 18th century by the church as  “an abominable, heathenish practice”, the Burning Of The Clavie is surely one of Scotland’s most bizarre and spectacular events.

The event takes place on 11th of January every year – or the 10th should the 11th fall on a Sunday – in correspondence with what was the last day of the year before our calendars were changed in 1660.

To summarise the event as simply the carrying of a burning barrel through the town fails to convey the deep-rooted and elaborate nature of the ceremony.

Fire has strong associations with Hogmanay.

From the symbolism of a single lump of coal as a first footing gift to wish comfort, health, and/or luck – or in other words the wish that the recipients ‘lum may aye reek’ – to the extravagance of the Edinburgh Fireworks display, The Burning Of The Clavie has more in common with the former, but with detail, ambition and meaning more in common with the procession of the Olympic flame.

The ceremony commences on the night with the clavie itself – a half barrel full of woodshavings and tar, which is nailed to a post. It is believed by some that the same nail is used every year. It is carried, borne on the shoulders of a single male resident to the home of the Burghead provost so that he can light the clavie with embers from his own fire. The flaming barrel is carried in turn by around 10 men, clockwise around the town, and embers from the barrel are presented to homes/households of significance.

The clavie is then carried to the ‘clavie stone’ – believed to be the altar of and old fort on Doorie Hill, where it is set down, and more fuel is added until the whole hillside is set ablaze.

The ceremony, in a manner similar to many rituals around the world, across faiths, and throughout the ages, is completed as attendees take away embers from the fire to light their own home fires on ‘New Years Day’ symbolising perhaps the cycle of life, renewal, the passing of cold winter and the promise of spring, or simply as the tradition dictates – for good luck.

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Dec 032010

By Alan Gatt.

Last week Aberdeen Voice brought you part 2 of Alan Gatt’s examination of where Aberdeen and Aberdonians are going wrong, and focussed on the Dutch disease, Affluenza and Hyperreality. This week, in part three Alan Takes a look at General Well-being and Reality Distortion Field.

In Powell and Pressberger’s 1945 classic “I Know Where I’m Going”, Wendy Hiller’s stranger-in-a-strange-land banker’s daughter is treated to a lightbulb moment via the indulgence of Roger Livesey’s Hebridean laird:

Hiller: People around here are very poor I suppose.

Livesey: Not poor, they just haven’t got money.

Hiller: It’s the same thing.

Livesey: Oh no, it’s something quite different.

When he was in opposition our new PM David Cameron was keen to promote a similar message. Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist Europe conference in 2006 he said:

Too often in politics today, we behave as if the only thing that matters is the insider stuff that we politicians love to argue about – economic growth, budget deficits and GDP.

GDP. Gross domestic product. Yes it’s vital. It measures the wealth of our society. But it hardly tells the whole story. Wealth is about so much more than pounds, or euros or dollars can ever measure. It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general well-being. Well-being can’t be measured by money or traded in markets. It can’t be required by law or delivered by government. It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships.

Improving our society’s sense of well-being is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times. It’s a challenge foreshadowed by one of Britain’s most famous economists – though not someone whose work I usually agree with. Writing in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that by now, society would have “solved its economic problem” – that is, worked out how to create permanently rising standards of living.

Aspiration is insecurity. So we volunteer to place the shackles around our own ankles

In his essay, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, he argued: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

In that essay of Keynes’ which Cameron mentioned, Keynes suggested that by 2030 we’d be about eight times better off economically than we were in 1930. And that once we’d achieved that level of affluence, we’d only find it necessary to work about 15 hours per week. The rest of the time, we could be humans; free to “do one thing to-day and another to-morrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner” as Marx would have it.

Well, since about 1986 Marx has been unmentionable and in our neocon times (which started in 1979) Keynes is perennially unfashionable, but the fact is that we achieved that ‘eight times better off’ quite some time ago. Of course – Keynes posited – there would still be some individuals who would work harder and for longer hours than others in pursuit of greater monetary wealth, but most wouldn’t – seeing the love of money as “one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities”.

So what’s going on? Why do we feel we must work so hard? It seems that as we aspire to the next level on the upgrade cycle – (best not fall behind our neighbours, colleagues, friends and family!) our anxieties are played upon and our insecurities are exploited, and so we give up our freedom to hours greatly in excess of the working time directive, let alone Keynes’ 15 hours. Aspiration is insecurity. So we volunteer to place the shackles around our own ankles. “Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty”.


So, where’s Aberdeen going wrong? Hyperreality? Dutch Disease? Affluenza? Resource Depletion? All of these things are present. But what I percieve in Aberdeen is a sort of un-founded self-belief. A vainglorious boastfulness which ill-serves us when compared with our peers. In “A Big Boy did it and Ran Away” Scottish author Christopher Brookmyre spells it out as the protagonist mulls the Aberdonian condition:

Europe’s Oil Capital. Honestly. The first time he heard the expression, he’d assumed it was a bit of self deprecatory humour. That was before he learned that there was no such thing as self-deprecatory humour in Aberdeen, particularly when it came to the town’s utterly unfounded conceit of itself. It was a provincial fishing port that had struck it astronomically lucky with the discovery of North Sea oil, and the result was comparable to a country bumpkin who had won the lottery, minus the dopey grin and colossal sense of incredulous gratitude. The prevalent local delusion wasn’t that the town had merely been in the right place at the right time, but that it had somehow done something to deserve this massive good fortune, and not before time either.

So even with all these things going wrong all around – the visible decay and the social exclusion; the decline of our elder industries and the planning blight despoiling the town centre – we still think we’re Ertchie! A couple of weeks ago I had an argument with an Aberdeen blogger who claimed that the North East “contributed 24% of all corporation tax to the UK exchequer”. What he’d actually heard at a “business breakfast briefing” was, that, following the recent budget Aberdeen “City and Shire” businesses will be paying UK Corporation tax at the rate of 24%. He grabbed a hold of the wrong end of the stick. And then proceeded to wave it about drawing attention to himself. This sort of thing – this sort of thinking – is typical.

So I think that the biggest thing going wrong in Aberdeen is a sort of self-regarding reality-distortion-field. A shame. Because it is actually a really attractive modestly-sized town that needs no overenthusiastic boosterism. We should recognise and celebrate Aberdeen for what it is; not for what the reality-distortion-field of some has convinced them it should be.

The affluenza-driven self-regard of the pompous reality-distortion-field is trapping us in an illusion of Aberdeen which is compounded by our condition of hyperreality. That vainglorious self-reverence which confuses surface with substance is yet another example of our lack of freedom. Voltaire said something like: “It’s hard to free people from the chains they revere”.

Obama said: “Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty”.

Sep 242010

By Fred Wilkinson.

The 14th issue of Aberdeen Voice marks almost exactly 3 months since the release of our first issue.

We are very grateful for the support and the encouraging comments we have received to date, and proud that our publication has become a regular weekly read for many Aberdonians. Continue reading »