CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: The truth about UK nuclear power. If it goes wrong, it’s goodbye to all of us


Building Britain’s Biggest Nuclear Power Station

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Anne Boleyn

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One cynical but reliable rule of thumb when reporting official statements is that the more often a fact is emphasised, the less likely it is to be true.

The first time we were told on Building Britain’s Biggest Nuclear Power Station (BBC2) that the new Hinkley Point C reactor will be able to withstand the impact of a plane crash, I was mildly reassured.

After the third or fourth repetition, I was quite uneasy. 

And when the last 15 minutes of the opening episode in this two-parter were devoted to explaining exactly how marvellously plane-proof the design is, panic was setting in.

For all the talk of double-skinned, nuclear-grade concrete and X-rayed metal seals, it was pretty obvious that one misplaced Airbus is all it takes, and Goodbye Somerset.

It didn’t help that the programme opened with Hinkley’s chaplain, Ewen Huffman, gathering the workforce to say a prayer for the foundations.

'The first time we were told the new Hinkley Point C reactor will be able to withstand the impact of a plane crash, I was mildly reassured. After the third or fourth repetition, I was quite uneasy.'

‘The first time we were told the new Hinkley Point C reactor will be able to withstand the impact of a plane crash, I was mildly reassured. After the third or fourth repetition, I was quite uneasy.’

Like a vicar invoking a blessing on a garden fete, he asked the Lord to ensure that the stone-and-steel floor ‘may provide a solid basis for everything that will be built on and generated from this project for all the years to come’.

I’m deep-dyed Church of England, but I like to rely on more than a psalm when atomic obliteration is a possibility. 

This film used plenty of cutaway diagrams and graphics to help us understand the engineering. 

Dotted lines squirmed under maps of the Bristol Channel, showing where tunnels will run to pipe in water for cooling the reactor.

These tunnels, the project managers promised us, were built to withstand tsunamis. 

A tsunami could not damage them. Don’t worry about tsunamis. Uh-oh.

Girl group of the week 

As The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC1) tackled disco dresses, Joe Lycett was fantasising about Lorraine Kelly, Ruth Langsford and Wee Jimmy Krankie as Diana Ross and the Supremes. Joe. Stop! In the name of love!  

Then the voiceover set out how a nuclear reactor generates energy. 

The last person to do that on TV was Jared Harris, playing heroic scientist Valery Legasov, in Chernobyl. 

In case we weren’t already anxious enough, up popped archive footage of the Ukranian power station’s smouldering remains, following meltdown in 1986.

The countryside around Chernobyl will be unfit for humans for perhaps 20,000 years.

Despite its repeated insistence that nothing can possibly go wrong, this documentary failed to address the risks of nuclear power.

Nothing was said, for instance, about how Hinkley’s nuclear waste will remain toxic for the next 300,000 years. 

That’s longer than homo sapiens have existed. Condescending BBC film-makers can pat us on the head and tell us to forget our silly worries as many times as they like.

But if a tidal wave or a plane strike does tear open the Hinkley C nuclear reactor, we’re all Fukushima’d.

'The nonsensical version of Tudor history that is Anne Boleyn (C5) will still be toxic, many millennia from now.' Pictured: Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn

‘The nonsensical version of Tudor history that is Anne Boleyn (C5) will still be toxic, many millennia from now.’ Pictured: Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn

The nonsensical version of Tudor history that is Anne Boleyn (C5) will still be toxic, many millennia from now.

The dialogue is shudderingly bad. Anne (Jodie Turner-Smith) confronted her husband, Henry VIII (Mark Stanley) like a bitter ex-girlfriend in a reality TV show, telling him: ‘I have only ever been a good partner to you.’

He grabbed her by the throat. ‘Do it!’ she urged him. 

When he stopped throttling her, she complained: ‘You’re pathetic.’

In a scene outside a castle, Anne mingled with the grubby peasantry, who all had warts and humpbacks. 

It looked like an outtake from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Indoors, the direction is hopelessly stilted and stagey. Characters turn away and pause visibly, waiting for the next line.

And for a production that prides itself on colour-blind casting, it jars that the Spanish ambassador Chapuys (Phoenix Di Sebastiani) is all eye-liner, goatee and silly voice.

He looks and sounds like a villain from Saturday morning B-movies.

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