Tony Blair tries to save nuclear industry, ignores climate solutions

Feature story - 12 July, 2006
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has so far only managed nice words on global warming while ignoring effective action on real solutions. Now he has chosen the dangerous, expensive false solution of nuclear power. This seals his true legacy - huge amounts of nuclear waste that will last for millions of years.

Tony Blair's legacy to future generations is more nuclear waste and inaction on real global warming solutions.

Back in 2003 the UK government rejected nuclear power in an energyreview, correctly stating that the massive investments required to buildnew nuclear power plants would mean no money to invest in renewables andenergy efficiency.

But the powerful, well-connected nuclear industry wasn't going to takethat lying down. They threw huge amounts of money into a PR campaignclaiming that nuclear energy was going to save the world from climatechange and provide energy security. And right on cue, Tony Blairstarted talking like a nuclear energy lobbyist.

Rubber stamp nuclear review

Blair started to make public speeches in favour of morenuclear power and announced another government energy review only two yearsafter the last one. Not surprisingly the latest energy review was stacked in favour of proving Blair is right about the need for more nuclear power and it did just that.

But Blair's obsession with nuclear power wasn't only a pre-emptive strike on theenergy review process; it has also undermined the review's owncommitments to renewables and efficiency.

"Tony Blair is fixated with getting new nuclear power stations built,"said Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace UK executive director, "and that meansanything substantial in this review that supports clean green energywill be fatally undermined as long as Blair remains Prime Minister. Youcan't roll out new nuclear power stations and build widespreadsustainable energy projects. The reality is that nuclear sucks up allthe money. There is an enormous radioactive cloud hanging over thisenergy review which threatens to drown any positive moves ondecentralised energy, renewables and energy efficiency."

Nuclear is a climate red herring

Blair claims that the UK needs nuclear power. He claims it will help to cutUK carbon emissions and ensure energy security. But building 10 new nuclearreactors would only deliver a four percent cut in CO2 emissions by2024: far too little, too late to combat climate change. And nuclearpower's overall contribution to total UK energy demand is so tiny (only3.6 percent) that it can only marginally affect energy security.

This UK government policy puts it at odds with other European nationswho have ditched nuclear power. In May 2006 Spain joined Sweden,Germany, Italy and Belgium as the fifth European country to abandonnuclear power. Maybe Tony Blair should listen more to these countriesand less to the nuclear industry lobby?

The only reactor under construction in western Europe, in Finland, isalready 12 months behind schedule after just one year of building, withsignificant cost over-runs and serious quality control problems.

Making a million year nuclear mess

Building new nuclear plants ignores the fact that there is no solutionwhat to do with waste current ones are producing. Every child knows youshould clean up your current mess before making a new one. Tony Blairis not the only one conveniently forgetting this lesson. The US istalking to Russia about a deal to allow it to dump nuclear waste fromUS reactors in Russia.

Generating nuclear waste is bad enough, shipping it half way around theworld to Russia that has a terrible record on nuclear safety is clearlya desperate attempt to put the waste 'out of sight, out of mind'.Unless of course you are unlucky enough to live near a transport routeor nuclear waste dump.

The challenge of global warming demands real leadership; those whochose the expensive, dangerous distraction represented by nuclear powerwill not be remembered kindly by future generations dealing withdangerous climate change and our nuclear waste.

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