The government is currently reviewing its energy policy in relation to climate change. It seems that Tony Blair wants to build 10 new nuclear power stations around the UK. Apparently he thinks this is a solution to Britain's need to cut carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 and 60% by 2050.
In reality, even if we doubled nuclear power in the UK, it would only cut carbon emissions by about 8%. It would also double the amount of radioactive spent fuel in the UK (which we still have no safe way of storing), increase the number of terrorist targets in the UK, require billions of pounds of public subsidy and deeply undermine the renewable energy sector. And as we all know, the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons proliferation is ever present.
The same enrichment facilities can be used to make 3% enriched uranium for power station fuel or 90% enriched uranium for nuclear warheads - hence the current concerns over Iran's enrichment facility. Nuclear power stations produce plutonium which can also be used to make nuclear explosives. And almost every nuclear programme in existence was built in order to give states the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. If Britain goes ahead with nuclear new-build it will encourage the rest of the world to do the same - and we really don't need proliferation to be an even bigger problem than it already is.
If Britain genuinely wants to make the necessary cuts in carbon emissions it must support renewable energy production and energy efficiency. There is only so much money that the government and private investors have available to put into developing electricity generation systems. If it goes to nuclear it won't go to renewables and efficiency.
The UK has enough wind power alone to meet our energy needs nine times over. As tidal, wave and solar technologies develop, a diverse renewables industry will emerge. Combined with the 30% reductions in energy demand through efficiency (including reducing air travel and car usage) identified as possible by the government in the 2003 Energy Review, there is no need for nuclear.
At the end of January the government opened a 12-week energy review consultation and has made it clear that it welcomes input, saying “We are keen to stimulate a wide-ranging and informed debate on energy policy issues.”
If we act by April 2006 we might be able to stop the government setting policy in favour of nuclear power. Please get active.
- First and most important - write three letters. They can be as simple as you like, but need to be in your own words to be effective. In order of priority these should go to:
- Gordon Brown. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he will have the casting vote in the cabinet as to whether nuclear power should be supported. As the Prime Minister in waiting he also has a vested interest in not pissing off the public.
- Your own MP asking them to put pressure on the cabinet (especially Gordon Brown). If your own MP is in the cabinet then they should be top priority, before Brown.
- George Osborne MP. As the shadow Chancellor of the Tory party which has indicated that it might come out against nuclear power he can make it clear that if they get back into office they will not support the nuclear power industry (who are clearly saying that they need ongoing support).
- The New Nuclear Power? No Thanks! Network website has information on nuclear, renewables, energy efficiency, cabinet ministers, and suggestions for letter writing (see URL, below).
- Second - ask your friends to write and to ask their friends to as well.
- Third - if you are willing to mobilise people locally on this issue please get in touch with the New Nuclear Power? No Thanks! Network, which is trying to get a national campaign going on this issue.