UK nuclear plan a 'dangerous distraction'

Posted: 26 March 2008

The British Government's decision to expand its nuclear energy capacity, has come in for immediate criticism from environmental campaigers.

Friends of the Earth said Business Secretary John Hutton's claim today that Britain must 'significantly expand' its nuclear power production for the sake of national security and to combat climate change is 'misleading and dangerous'.

The Minister said that UK's nuclear programme should go beyond replacing the existing stock of 23 reactors, which provide 20 per cent of the country's energy. Instead, nuclear energy should provide 'a significantly higher proportion' of the nation's energy needs, and enable Britain to become a leader in the development of nuclear power.

The environmental campaign group said that if the government put this level of commitment into genuine green solutions - expansion of renewables, energy efficiency, combined heat and power and cleaner carbon technology - Britain could lead the world, create thousands of jobs and meet our energy needs.

The UK must dramatically expand its renewable power resource in order to meet the EU 2020 target - yet the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament will not deliver this, FOE said.

"Although the Government is prepared to throw money and political weight behind nuclear power, it has so far refused to support real solutions to climate change such as introducing a Feed In Tariff, which would guarantee a premium price for renewable electricity generated in people's homes and by businesses."

Friends of the Earth's nuclear campaigner,Neil Crumpton said: "The Government is misleading the public about nuclear power. A replacement nuclear programme is not an effective solution to climate change as it would only generate between 4 and 5 per cent of our energy needs. And talk of an expanded programme is really pie in the sky considering the timescales and technical realities involved.

"Nuclear energy also leaves behind a deadly toxic legacy that will remain a threat for tens of thousands of years, and this has already cost the taxpayer over £70 billion. Building new reactors would create even more waste and take resources away from safe and sustainable solutions to climate change such as renewable power, energy efficiency and combined heat and power. Urgent action is needed to cut UK emissions, but throwing more money and resources at the nuclear white elephant is a dangerous and expensive distraction."

Environmental groups also fear that building new nuclear plants would undermine renewable energy by steering investment away from them, and hinder the UK attempts to meet the EU target of 20 per cent UK energy from renewable sources by 2020

It could also encourage other countries to go down the nuclear route, with potential implications for nuclear weapons proliferation.

Source: FOE press release 27 March 2008