Hutton fears nuclear industry has lost confidence of the public

 

Britain's nuclear operators face the gravest challenge for years to persuade the public that new power plants will be safe in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the new head of the industry admitted yesterday.

Lord Hutton, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, said the Fukushima disaster had "changed the game" for atomic energy and called for a new approach around the safety of nuclear generation.

He was speaking as the industry released new data showing public confidence in nuclear power had declined for the first time in five years in the wake of the meltdown in Japan.

Just under 30 per cent of those questioned in an opinion poll were favourable towards nuclear power – down four points in six months, while 28 per cent now oppose all new nuclear build.

In an interview with The Independent, Lord Hutton, the ex-Labour cabinet minister, said concerns on civil nuclear power were understandable and it was imperative the industry communicated better with the public.

"The real issue for Fukushima is the safety case, which I think has to be gone through very carefully again," he said.

"We really do have to understand precisely what happened and mitigate as much of that risk as possible in the UK context. We have got a heavy obligation to be open and transparent with the public about the safety case for nuclear in the UK. This is the absolute precondition for progress."

He said there was more understanding of the economic case for nuclear – the lowest price for clean energy.

"We know it can improve Britain's energy security and contribution to climate change. But people still say, is it safe is it secure?... The industry is very aware of that challenge. Fukushima has changed the game."

He believed there had been a change in opinion about nuclear power before Fukushima, with many in the green movement reluctantly accepting it was necessary to combat global warming.

"I think it's a very interesting debate amongst people who would describe themselves as Greens and there is a strong divergence of views," he said. "I don't think any of them like it but they realise that there is not another show in town that's really likely to address the issue of how much carbon we're chucking into the atmosphere. If you want to meet the climate-change challenge and spread development and growth between economies you're going to need clean energy."

He said it was important for British industry to be at the forefront of the technology and backed plans for a new MOX fuel plant at Sellafield. He said he wanted to see a full spectrum capability in UK nuclear on both the fuel cycle and the power-generation side.

"People often just think about nuclear in terms of power generation, I think the fuel including reprocessing is a very important aspect and I want Britain to be part of that," he said.

"Nuclear is going to happen around the world – lets not be in any doubt about that. And Britain's expertise on the fuel cycle should be and I hope will be part of that... and I hope we'll be at the forefront on nuclear technology."

But he said before this could happen much more work needed to be done.

"The industry faces a very big challenge in responding to Fukushima and we will have to use all of the tools in the box to do so," Lord Hutton said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power