Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A tale of lamb chops, coal, caesium, sand, fog, wind mills, government and the environment.

One of my favourite launch spots on the Solway Firth is Dhoon shore on Goat Well Bay. Today I learned from BBC News that SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) are investigating the sands for any evidence of radioactive contamination from the Sellafield nuclear plant on the other side of the Solway.

I have no strong feelings against nuclear power but I do expect the operators to run a tight ship and there have been lots of careless lapses both in the UK and elsewhere. There are areas of the Ayrshire and Galloway hills (north of the Solway) where sheep and lambs are still not fit for human consumption due to radioactive caesium fall out from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Elsewhere today, 5,000 Shetland sheep have been slaughtered and buried. They were intended for export to England in the autumn for lamb chops but a government research lab leaked foot and mouth virus. The resulting restrictions on animal movement meant they had to stay on Shetland and now there is no pasture left to feed them.

Now it is not sheep but the wind that is farmed in these hills. Despite the government's recent enthusiasm for wind turbines (and there is a huge offshore development currently being constructed in the Solway) I cannot see that these will meet all our energy needs. Monday dawned in Scotland under clear cold and windless skies.

Cycling through the wind farm in the foggy but clean air of Sunday brought back memories of the smogs of the 1950's caused by burning coal for our energy needs. Of course all the cheap Chinese manufactured goods that are flooding into western Christmas stockings have been made by burning coal but that's on the other side of the world. Isn't it?