Leading article: The case does not stack up

Related Topics

The nuclear industry was given the go-ahead to build a new generation of power stations yesterday. The Business Secretary John Hutton told the House of Commons that Britain needs new nuclear plants to secure future energy supplies and fight climate change. But more significant was what the minister skirted around in his statement.

Despite all the efforts of the industry to improve its image over the years, nuclear fission remains a uniquely dangerous technology. The risks of a Chernobyl-style meltdown may have receded, but there is still a significant hazard from nuclear waste, which remains active for tens of thousands of years.

Mr Hutton claimed that there will be no subsidies to the nuclear industry. But this is an empty promise. Even if public money is not needed to help them set up the plants, it will almost certainly be needed to dispose of the waste. Mr Hutton also neglected to mention that no other country has managed to run a nuclear industry without vast public expense.

All we are left with is the global warming case for going nuclear. And that simply does not stack up. Nuclear plants release less carbon dioxide than coal or natural gas power facilities, but it has been estimated that 10 new reactors would cut the UK's carbon emissions by just 4 per cent; and only then after 2025. Meanwhile, the nuclear push threatens to divert investment from renewable energy technology such as wind and wave, as well as decentralised power generation schemes. It will also distract official attention from the hugely neglected imperative of increasing energy efficiency. Every pound invested in conservation saves seven times as much carbon dioxide as one spent on nuclear power.

If the Government is so sure of the nuclear case, one wonders why it does not consult properly on the matter. The High Court ruled that the consultation element of the 2006 energy review, which first came out in favour of nuclear, was flawed after a legal challenge by Greenpeace. A second consultation was completed last October. But that too has been challenged. The Nuclear Consultation Working Group, made up of 17 academics and scientists (including some independent government advisers), argued last week that key questions in the latest consultation were designed to provide particular and limited answers. Issues such as uncertainty about nuclear fuel supply, radiation risk and health effects "were not consulted on in any meaningful way".

This is not the behaviour of ministers confident of a case. And this nuclear dash is not the behaviour of a Government with a firm grip on either energy policy or the challenge of climate change.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?