One year on from Fukushima, it staggers me how many people still think there's a role for nuclear power in the UK's future energy mix. Together with three other former Directors of Friends of the Earth (Tom Burke, Tony Juniper, Charles Secrett), we've been assessing the case against nuclear - exclusively from an economic perspective. We've now captured this in a Note to the Prime Minister on the grounds that he absolutely won't be getting this advice from either Ministers or senior officials in DECC - which has for a long time been little more than the voice of the nuclear industry inside Government.
This campaign has the full support of Friends of the Earth. Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Andy Atkins, has this to say about our initiative:
"This report is spot on – Britain must meet its energy needs while keeping to its legally-binding climate targets, but gambling on a massive nuclear building programme to achieve it is far too risky. The Alice-in-Wonderland economics of nuclear power mean new reactors will only be built if developers are written a blank cheque – as Mrs Thatcher discovered when she aimed to build ten nuclear power plants, but only managed one. Investing in clean British energy by developing the UK’s huge wind, wave and solar potential and slashing energy waste will keep the lights on and create thousands of new jobs."
To substantiate the broad arguments advanced in the Note to the Prime Minister, Tom Burke, Tony Juniper, Jonathon Porritt and Charles Secrett produced a series of six supplementary Briefings released throughout March and April:
In July 2012, we also released a briefing authored by Oliver Tickell exploding the myth that Thorium might be a viable alternative fuel to uranium in nuclear reactors. Read the briefing and the accompanying press release.
The eye-watering expense of nuclear power - my article for The Guardian in May 2012.
How the UK is handing control of its energy future to France - my article for The Guardian in March 2012. And our response to George Monbiot in the Guardian a little later the month.
I was invited to speak at the Green Party conference, and here's my talk - No to Nuclear - during the renewable energy debate.
Photos kindly provided by Adrian Arbib.
I was Director of Friends of the Earth in the UK at the time of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. I felt at that time that this would finally kill off the nuclear industry – but that has proved to be a vain hope.
The irony, of course, is that it’s the onset of accelerating climate change that has given the industry a new lease of life, based on the somewhat questionable assumption that nuclear power provides very low-carbon electricity. Post-Fukushima, the Green Movement finds itself even more divided over the idea that nuclear power has a major role to play in the transition to a low-carbon world.
I guess George Monbiot (who thinks it has) and myself (who still thinks it hasn’t) reflect both ends of that divide. For those interested, here is George’s initial challenge to me in a Guardian Environment blog in May 2011, and my reply to him.