NEWS: Green Party in England & Wales
Government 'bypassing democratic debate on nuclear power'
News that the HSE are to assess the safety, cost and suitability of nuclear
energy has today been condemned by the Green Party.
Green Party Principal Speaker Keith Taylor comments: "The government claims
not to have made its mind up on the nuclear issue, but it's decision to go
ahead with an HSE review in advance of the energy review's finding belies
it's real stance regards this dangerous and exorbitant form of energy
"The concept of 'pre-licensing' flies in the face of the government's
professed desire to review all the options before following the nuclear
power route. It seems clear that, despite all the arguments to the contrary,
the government have fallen under the nuclear lobby spell, at a cost to
"Pre-empting the review's findings in this way bypasses democratic debate on
this vital issue. Nuclear power is not popular with the public - despite the
sectors attempt to frame energy debate within Britain in a 'false context'
of climate change versus nuclear.(2)
"Atomic power's role in tackling greenhouse gas emissions has been seriously
inflated. Nuclear power is not, as often claimed, a zero carbon technology.
In fact, every stage in the process uses fossil fuels (oil and gas) - with
the exception of fission itself. To generate electricity from uranium, a
complex chain of industrial processes is needed: to convert uranium ore in
the ground into fuel elements for the reactor; to construct the facilities
including the nuclear power plant itself; and to handle and store waste
safely. All these processes produce substantial amounts of carbon dioxide.
"Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks is right to say we need a 'huge step-change
to save the planet...(to make some) urgent decisions, (3) but nuclear power
is not the way to do this. Renewable technology using wind, wave and solar
can provide the UK with clean, cheap and inexhaustible supplies of energy.
"Nuclear power does not stand up to renewable technology, on any front.
Nuclear power is astronomically expensive - in the UK, no nuclear project
has ever come in on budget - a staggering fact considering the enormous
subsidies provided at the public's expense. It is incredibly dangerous -
not just in terms of continual low level radiation in the areas around
facilities contributing to 'cancer clusters' but also with regard to
accidents such as Chernobyl. In recent years, the growing threat of
terrorism has heightened this risk. Imagine if the Buncefield Oil Depot had
"Britain has been generating radioactive waste for over 50 years, yet no
progress has been made on how to dispose of it. Current strategies for
dealing with waste are unreliable, unsafe and ruinously expensive. It is not
enough for Mr. Wicks to look to the "special relationship between state and
market." (4) Private enterprise does not hold all the answers, especially
when you are talking about a technology so dangerous the government has
been forced to underwrite all nuclear power stations.
"Nor is nuclear power a 'home-grown' energy supply. Uranium ore, whether
sourced from dwindling high grade supplies or the more common but more
difficult to use low grade, is not mined in the UK. A third of the
world's supplies come from Canada.(5)
"But, thanks to our climate and rugged coastline, the UK is uniquely placed
to generate energy from renewable sources - such as wind, wave and solar
power. We have no need to rely on external sources - be it fossil fuels or
uranium ore. Wind power alone could generate up to three times the UK's
electricity needs, were we to properly utilise the technology. (6)
"It is vital that the DTI Energy Review consultation is honest about
nuclear's fundamental problems and takes into account the public's concerns
over nuclear power. Sadly, the government's decision to look into
pre-licensing does not give us much hope that this is the case.
"The Green Party last week launched its own energy campaign - Green Energy
Works. ( www.greenenergyworks.org.uk) This campaign has two primary targets:
for two million people to sign up to certain renewable energy
tariffs by the end of 2006; and for the new Low Carbon Buildings fund for
microgeneration grants to be used up within months of their launch in March.
If enough households and businesses sign up to green electricity, and the
new green grants are exhausted within months, we can show the government
that we want our 2010 target achieved now, and much more investment put into
new renewables capacity for the future.
"The government cannot continue to mislead the electorate about the human,
financial, and environmental costs of nuclear power. The reality is that
nuclear technology is not only unnecessary, but also a grave mistake. Yet
Tony Blair seems intent on taking the dirty and dangerous route that is
nuclear power. This is a deplorable move. We are talking about the future we
pass onto our children, let it not be a tainted legacy."