There have been several reports recently of the increasing popularity of nuclear as a solution to rapidly emerging concerns with fossil fuel energy. But this may be more a result of propaganda than pragmatism and principle.
A collaborative approach, which had been adopted in the UK, is breaking down. Recently the UK government initiated a public review of nuclear power which included environmentally aware stakeholders. Unfortunately, these stakeholders have withdrawn from the process protesting the biased review. The accusations are damaging because the government is bound by its own guidelines to keep an open mind on new nuclear power stations until after the “fullest public consultation” and if the government is forced into a third consultation it could delay major energy decisions being made for at least a year.
The coalition review process was forced upon the government by the high court, which ruled in February that a previous consultation was “seriously flawed” and “manifestly inadequate and unfair”. At least six groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and Green Alliance, claim the government is distorting the evidence by not presenting the alternative scenarios provided and say they are considering whether to take the case to court again. What is clear is that the dangers of nuclear power still appear to be at the forefront of public concern, with 89% of people worried about safety and 92% alarmed at the prospect of creating more nuclear waste.
Unfortunately, our reading of the situation is that government is leaning toward nuclear because it provides a “solution” that is sellable to the public and supported by rich lobbies, while its costs are postponed to be the problem of later incumbents. Nuclear is the GM of energy. It looks great if your listening to the people selling it, but the users and the locals where it happens have their environment and livelihoods destroyed.
Then there are the greens who support it because it can be a solution to climate change. This is an act of desperation because they are rightfully fearful that people will not change their behaviour in time to make a difference. They would rather have a planet with radioactive acne than one in which nature dies. Its not the easy choice that it is made out to be. However, if people are informed about lifestyle choices and consequences we usually do the right thing and change behaviour. That is what the review needs to promote and where it has failed.
Further reading: Nuclear’s power’s new age from The Economist concludes: “One of the reasons why the public turned against nuclear power last time round is that it found itself bailing the industry out. It would be wrong, not just for taxpayers but also for the industry, to set up another lot of cosy deals with governments. The nuclear industry needs to persuade people that it is clean, cheap and safe enough to rely on without a government crutch. If it can’t, it doesn’t deserve a second chance.”
Their briefing Atomic Renaissance focuses on the expected expansion of US nuclear and its influence on policy elsewhere.