Michael McCarthy: The former PM's infatuation with a nuclear future

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Tony Blair had a powerful enthusiasm for nuclear power, which only gradually became clear to the outside world during his years in Downing Street. In part, it was bound up with his response to climate change, which he saw (before other world leaders) as an issue that would come to be dominant.

Supported by his Chief Scientist, Sir David King, he envisaged carbon-free atomic energy as an essential part of the solution.

In part, too, it was a Labour Party politician's realisation that there were a lot of jobs in deprived west Cumbria that depended on the nuclear plant at Sellafield. But his support for nuclear energy was even more fundamental – it was part of his unbridled enthusiasm for projects that were large-scale and shiny and new and high-tech (genetically modified crops were another such keen interest).

In November 2006 I flew with Mr Blair on a visit to Sellafield. When he arrived at the plant the genuine warmth was quite astonishing: he was greeted by executives and workers alike as a saviour, which, given his low-key but crucial backing for their industry behind the scenes, is what he was.

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