Submission to the Nuclear Power Consultation

This is an individual contribution to the government's Nuclear Power consultation. The main environmental groups withdrew from the consultation because they considered it to be a sham, the information given being totally one-sided. The government's PDF document is here:


Note that the original lengthy set of web pages to which much of this contribution below refers, have now been removed.

The sections below are answers to the questions posed in the consultation.

To see some ways in which we could reduce carbon emissions and provide the energy we need, with renewable resources and no nuclear power, see the excellent study Zero Carbon Britain by CAT in Wales http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/ . Also worth looking at is the fascinating work of the Club of Rome on a European grid supplied partly by Concentrating Solar Power http://www.trecers.net/ , an example of which is the new CSP plant that commenced operation this year in Seville.

The Future of Nuclear Power: The role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy

These are the recorded submissions. Only sections to which responses have been recorded are listed below.

Document section - Our energy challenge: climate change and energy security

Question: 1. To what extent do you believe that tackling climate change and ensuring the security of energy supplies are critical challenges for the UK that require significant action in the near term and a sustained strategy between now and 2050?

Your response:
Humans look set to burn in a mere two hundred years the entire legacy of fossil fuels that was laid down over a period of hundreds of millions of years. Efforts to prevent resource exhaustion and limit damage to the environment will fail unless global population stabilises and consumption of resources per capita is reduced, so the UK must participate with other countries in a global effort to tackle climate change. We must of course find ways to reduce the UK's own CO2 emissions and ensure that we have light, warmth and transport. However the methods by which the UK decides to do this will influence the course taken by other nations, both by example and because our investments in a chosen technology will advance that technology and make it more feasible and economic for others to use. For this reason we should invest in those technologies that can be safely copied by most other countries. Most of the few hundred existing Nuclear power plants are located in the most advanced and stable countries and yet have still suffered a succession of disastrous accidents (at least 40,000 deaths from increased cancers from Chernobyl alone). If even these countries cannot run the few existing plants safely, there is no hope of extending nuclear to all countries without irrevocably poisoning the planet. In any case there is not enough uranium that can be economically mined to provide fuel to a nuclear powered world for more than a couple of years. Nuclear remains what it always has been: a costly and dangerous dead end.

Document section - Nuclear power and carbon emissions

Question: 2. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on carbon emissions from new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
When I studied engineering at university in the 1970s my professor told us that in the 20 years since the first nuclear power station was switched on in Britain, the industry had just reached the point where it had generated more energy than had been put into the construction of the plants.

My professor highlighted the fact that the energy accounting analysis of nuclear power stations is far from favourable. Enormous amounts of energy are required for construction, for mining and preparation of the fuel, and for the maintenance for thousands of years of radioactive waste. As a result no net energy will be produced for many years and at the end of their life they become an energy drain again for generations. Since most of these energy inputs will come from fossil fuels, nuclear is not carbon neutral. Recent work by Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith demonstrates that as the world moves to exploit the leaner uranium ores, the CO2 lifecycle emissions of nuclear will exceed those of a gas-fired station. Furthermore their analysis uses conservative estimates of the energy required to decommission nuclear stations and store the wastes. The estimated cost of decommissioning UK nuclear plants has recently spiralled to over £70bn: the energy cost may reasonably be expected to follow a similar path.

A key consideration that is missed in the government's analysis is that estimates of nuclear costs whether in financial, energy or CO2 terms or are notoriously unreliable. The reason for this unreliability is that each nuclear power station is a giant one-off engineering project. With only tens of plants in any one country and four hundred worldwide, every new plant is essentially a prototype. Factors such as local geology also dictate differences. One-off projects on this scale are notorious for cost over-runs, construction delays and unreliable performance. Mass production on the other hand, leads to cheap reliable products because constant repetition allows design and manufacture to be optimised, e.g. washing machines, cars or PCs. Combined heat and power schemes, wind turbines and solar panels all lend themselves to mass production: already there are tens of thousands of wind turbines in Europe. These lightweight technologies plus increased energy efficiency are the way forward, not unreliable and unpredictable nuclear dinosaurs.

Just to clean up the existing UK nuclear mess is now estimated to cost about £75bn. For about half of that money we could build 26 Giga Watt of offshore wind turbines producing 20% of our electricity needs (this figure allows for intermittency of the wind). This could consist of 13,000 2MW turbines. It sounds like a lot, but the motor industry builds about 2 million cars a year for the UK market. Building wind turbines is a similar type of metal-manufacture to cars and if we built the whole 13,000 turbines in a single year, we would only be building one turbine for every 154 cars built that year.

Document section - Security of supply benefits of nuclear power

Question: 3. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the security of supply impact of new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
The security of supply or "without nuclear the lights will go out" argument is often heard. In practice nuclear also suffers from intermittency with whole stations having to be shut down at short notice because of leaks - often remaining closed for weeks or months. At the end of the day nuclear only supplies a fifth of electric power in the UK. If we were to rely on clean renewable energy in the future many engineers and scientists are confident that we could maintain a reliable supply. But even in the worst case that we experienced a few exceptional days when electricity supply was limited, is the lights going out for a few hours the worst possible thing that could happen to us in the future? It is salutary to remember that all previous generations managed without any electricity (my father remembers it being installed in his childhood home) and most countries today have far less regular supply than ours. The problem of a power cut is resolved the moment the lights come back on - quite the opposite of the legacy of radioactivity in the environment which will last for centuries.

Nuclear also relies on imported components and uranium. Developing indigenous renewables is much more secure. Finally renewables by their nature are for the most part a distributed system in which the loss of any one unit is not critical. Thus they are far more resistant to disruption by for example terrorist attack or war.

Document section - Economics of nuclear power

Question: 4. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the economics of new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
I don't have much faith in the capital and operating costs presented here, however I'm more worried by two other areas of cost: (1) Dismantling of nuclear reactors and storage of waste; (2) The 'external' costs of security and war associated with nuclear proliferation, and of long term contamination of the environment.

Dismantling of the reactors and storage of waste is estimated at less than £1 billion per station. This seems low considering that the in 2005 the cost of decommissioning the existing sites was forecast to be £55.8 billion, the estimate then increased in 2006 to about £72 billion (plus £5.3 billion in relation to spent nuclear fuels) and is rumoured now to have reached £90 billion. Given that there are 24 reactors, this would seem to give a cost of over £3.2bn per reactor. Furthermore only a fraction of the staggering end-of-life costs are taken into account because of the economic technique of 'discounting'. I would argue that discounting should not be applied in this case because of the long time-scales involved and the huge risk and uncertainty associated with handling and storing nuclear debris. The idea of discounting is that we include only a fraction of future costs in the estimate of overall lifetime cost because we could invest that smaller sum and it would grow to be big enough by the time the costs are incurred. Can we have any confidence that such a fund will really be set up and will grow faster than the costs appear to be growing? Not if the lack of a fund to cover the existing £77bn decommissioning costs is anything to go by. Worse still, can discounting give a sensible answer at all? Over periods of many decades huge costs can be discounted to minor ones giving nonsensical answers. For example we could include in our costings the expense of building replacement nuclear power stations in 50, 100 and 150 years time, which suitably discounted would appear to make nuclear energy much cheaper. Alternatively we could include in the analysis of wind energy the discounted cost of fully refurbishing the wind turbine moving parts when they wear out AND of establishing a new fund at that time to do the same again when they next wear out, etc. By thus extending the life of the windfarm indefinitely we could argue that wind energy is free. Given that the costs of solar, wind, wave and tidal technologies are all falling and that they are all involve straightforward and non-hazardous manufacture of large numbers of identical units, this seems a much more realistic assertion than predicting low future costs for nuclear.

Nuclear should also include a factor for the costs of wars and military build up caused or partly cased by nuclear proliferation. The invasion of Iraq was supposedly partly because Saddam Hussain was acquiring nuclear material. This war has cost the UK an estimated $7.5 billion and the US a figure that may be over $1 trillion, apart from the cost in in lives to Iraq.

Document section - The value of having low carbon electricity generation: nuclear power and the alternatives

Question: 5. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the value of having nuclear power as an option? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
What are missing are the other possible sources of energy. There is no reference to solar at all and wave and tidal energy are mentioned only to say “there are uncertainties over the speed with which some renewable technologies such as wave and tidal power will develop” ... which is true largely because successive UK governments have made little or no investment in them but poured billions of pounds into nuclear. Let's look at some of the alternatives:

1) Concentrated solar power (CSP)
German scientists calculate that covering just 0.5% of the world’s deserts with a technology called concentrated solar power (CSP) would provide the world’s entire electricity needs, with desalinated water for desert regions as a valuable byproduct, as well as air-conditioning for nearby cities.
Europe, North Africa and the Middle East could build a new high-voltage direct current electricity grid to transport electricity from a variety of sources. Together the region could provide all its electricity needs by 2050 with barely any fossil fuels and no nuclear power. CSP plants already exist in several countries: Spain opened a plant near Seville this year and work has begun on a plant in Algeria. Costs of CSP electricity are competitive with oil and could eventually compete with natural gas.

Solar energy can also be captured within the UK by PV or thermal solar panels fitted to buildings. Figures from the DTI indicate savings of around 500 kWh/year/m2 of thermal (hot water) collector. Thus if we had a typical 4m2 collector on every house we would get 52,000 GWh per year or the equivalent of more than six 1GW nuclear power stations. Of course not all homes are suitable but there are many other buildings that are.

2) Wave Energy
The worldwide wave power potential has been estimated to be around 8,000-80,000TWh/y (1-10TW), which is the same order of magnitude as world electrical energy consumption. In 2001 the Science and Technology Committee reported that, based on estimates from the DTI's Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU), in the UK alone, wave energy devices could practicably contribute more than 50 Twh/y. An early UK lead in wave power research was stopped by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980's (who funded nuclear instead) but now the UK is starting to produce machines again although it is the Portuguese who are buying the first commercial models!

3) Tidal Power
Estimates of tidal energy released by the DTI, suggests that 3000GW of tidal energy is available worldwide though much of it not in areas suitable for power generation. Regarding the UK, a submission from the OU to the Select Committee on Science and Technology states “Tidal power devices might ultimately supply up to 20 per cent of UK electricity with minimal environmental impacts. As with wave power, given the UK's maritime history and its extensive offshore engineering experience coupled with the major energy resource offshore, it would be perverse to ignore this option.”

Document section - Safety and security of nuclear power

Question: 6. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the safety, security, health and non-proliferation issues? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
"licensing a nuclear power plant is in my view, licensing random premeditated murder."

These are the words of Dr. John Gofman, the pre-eminent Manhattan Project nuclear scientist and medical physician, who died earlier this year. In the course of his scientific career, Gofman came to believe that commercial nuclear power was no less than "premeditated random murder". In 1979 Gofman wrote "Every responsible organization studying radiation injury now holds that cancer, leukemia, and genetic damage must be considered to be essentially proportional to dose, down to the very lowest radiation doses." After excruciating feet dragging, The National Academy of Science's BEIR VII Committee confirmed this only last year. Gofman states, "In one year of operation , a 1000-megawatt nuclear power plant generates fission products (like Strontium-90 and Cesium 137) in a quantity equal to what is produced by the explosion of 23 megatons of nuclear fission bombs--or more than one thousand bombs of the Hiroshima-size."

The government's presentation in this section misleads the public when it states “The UK has not had an incident at a civil nuclear power station where there has been an offsite release of radioactive material” because there HAS been a massive release of radioactivity following a fire at a UK reactor not classed as 'civil': the Windscale number one reactor in Cumbria whose purpose was plutonium production for bombs. The Windscale Nuclear Plant, now renamed Sellafield vents its wastes into the Irish Sea and has turned it into one of the most radioactive bodies of water in the world. The Irish Government is using every diplomatic, political and legal route available to bring about the closure of the Sellafield plant. Ireland’s concerns are reinforced by the poor ongoing safety record at Sellafield and the recent serious incident at the THORP Plant in April 2005.

The analysis by the European Commission suggesting that the probability of a major accident - the meltdown of the reactor's core along with failure of the containment structure - is one in 2.4 billion per reactor year in the UK smacks of hubris of the worst kind. There are currently about 440 operating reactors in the world, so we have no more than 12,000 or so years of reactor operation. So far we have had several major accidents (Windscale fire, Three Mile Island, etc) and a meltdown with breaching of the containment structure at Chernobyl. That gives a one in 12,000 probability per reactor year, i.e. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES MORE LIKELY, based on real evidence. Does the government think that Chernobyl doesn't count because it regards Russian technology as 'inferior'? The Russians built a plane very similar to Concord nicknamed Concordski, which crashed in 1973, whereas our Concord flew for many years without ever crashing until one day tragically it did. It is extreme naivety to suppose that Britons are immune to mistakes, incompetence and unforeseen circumstances.

Document section - Transport of nuclear materials

Question: 7. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the transport of nuclear materials? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
The public (rightly) has so little confidence in the nuclear industry that no-one wants movements of radioactive waste on a road or rail line near them. An accident may be very unlikely but the impact would be terrible. Are private insurers willing to fully cover the risk? The threat of terrorist action is also now very much greater.

The problem for nuclear power is that the only acceptable level of accidents is zero because of the appalling consequences of a major radiation leak. If the UK chooses nuclear power it cannot hope to persuade other countries not to do so - and some of those countries will have far lower standards of infrastructure and safety than the UK. Even the richest and most technologically sophisticated industrial country has not managed to look after its bridges properly. Following Minnesota bridge collapse earlier this year in the USA, it has been revealed that about 77,000 bridges across America share the same "structurally deficient" rating as the one that collapsed. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the senate, said that domestic programmes, such as replacing ageing infrastructure, had been shortchanged because of the billions being spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Document section - Waste and decommissioning

Question: 8. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on waste and decommissioning ? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
In considering how the nuclear industry can be expected to guard waste in the future we may reasonably look at their past record. At the Dounreay fast breeder reactor a tunnel was bored out to sea, taking liquid 'low-level' radioactive waste 600 yards offshore. During construction a 15ft-diameter shaft was created and into this they dropped high level radioactive waste for 20 years until in 1977, a hydrogen explosion blew the lid off the shaft, scattering radioactive material. For some tens of thousands of years, any escape of waste from the shaft would be highly dangerous, and unless a breakwater is built, the sea will breach the shaft in about 200 years. The UKAEA has had to resort to searching old logbooks and asking retired workers to find out what was dumped. The reactors at the site are all shut but Dounreay clean-up work at the site will employ hundreds of people and absorb billions of pounds.

Question: 10. What do you think are the ethical considerations related to a decision to allow new nuclear power stations to be built? And how should these be balanced against the need to address climate change?

Your response:
There is no way of rendering nuclear waste safe except waiting for it to decay over many millennia. Disposing consists therefore of just burying it somewhere for our descendants to deal with. Had Stonehenge been a nuclear power station, for the benefit of a mere 40 years worth of electricity 3500 years ago, we would still be dealing with its waste. Can we really suppose that waste buried today will be carefully tended for thousands of years to ensure that it is not leaking or accidentally dug up, when we are not even sure what was buried at Dounreay in living memory. Our great grand children living in the 22nd century will get no benefit from nuclear power because the viable ores will have long been exhausted and the reactors shut down. What they will get is the poisonous legacy of waste. They will curse us.

Document section - Environmental impacts of nuclear power

Question: 11. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on environmental issues? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
Grossly misleading figures are presented in this section by the government. It is stated that “the land necessary to build a 1.2GW nuclear power station is estimated at 25-75 hectares, compared to estimates by the British Wind Energy Association of 10,000 hectares for a 1GW windfarm.” Of course a windfarm extends over a larger area, but as the BWEA spells out on its website: “Less than 1% of this land would be used for foundations and access roads, the other 99% can still be used for productive farming.” So 1.2GW of wind energy capacity would actually use only 100 hectares – APPROXIMATELY THE SAME AS A COAL OR NUCLEAR PLANT. Furthermore most of this is the gravel access tracks - hikers and grazing animals can walk on or across these and right up to the base of the turbines. The only area no longer accessible is that occupied by the towers themselves. A 1.2GW windfarm would require about 600 turbines of 2MW each, and the 4.3m diameter towers would therefore occupy a total of 0.87 hectares ... the wind turbines occupy 100 TIMES LESS SPACE than equivalent coal or nuclear plants!!

NOTE: The government DO qualify this area calculation in the more detailed information given in the supporting PDF file BUT the web page for this section (now removed) did not; it simply stated that the windfarm covered a vast area.

Some much more informative comparisons between windfarms and nuclear plants would be the following:
1) How much land has been made unsafe for humans by these technologies?
a) Windfarms: None.
b) Nuclear Plants: Clear totals for contaminated land are hard to come by (Data from the U.S. Department of Energy says 0.54 million acres of land in the USA are contaminated with radioactive waste though it is unclear what proportion is due to civil nuclear power). In 1983 large amounts of highly contaminated seaweed were washed up on the beaches near Sellafield and many kilometres of beach were officially closed to the public. Radioactive waste in the silt at the bottom of the Ravenglass estuary has shifted towards the western coast of Scotland and has polluted many islands with its radiation. Some of the radioactive silt has even been found in Greenland, Norway and Ireland. Abroad, 99% of the land of Belarus has been contaminated to varying degrees above internationally accepted levels as a result of the Chernobyl explosion. The plutonium released by the Chernobyl explosion has a half-life of 24,400 years. The 30 kilometre contaminated exclusion zone has been expanded to 70km and has been dubbed ‘Death Valley’ by the locals. This situation will continue forever.

2) How much food has been made unfit for human consumption by these technologies?
a) Windfarms: None.
b) Nuclear Plants: In the UK after the Windscale fire, radioactive contamination of milk resulted in a ban on milk distribution over a total area of 200 square miles, to a distance of 30 miles from the plant. Restrictions in the UK due to Chernobyl affected 9,700 farms and 4.2 million sheep. They still apply (in 2006) to 83,100 hectares and 200,000 sheep.

3) What is the increased risk of leukemia to children living nearby?
a) Windfarms: None.
b) Nuclear Plants: 21% (source European Journal of Cancer Care).

Document section - The supply of nuclear fuel

Question: 12. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the supply of nuclear fuel? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
Cost is not the only factor. Work by Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith demonstrates that as the world moves to exploit the leaner uranium ores, the CO2 lifecycle emissions of nuclear will exceed those of a gas-fired station. The energy cost of extraction also rises.

Document section - Supply chain and skills capacity

Question: 13. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the supply chain and skills capacity? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
Training more people in the skills of building nuclear reactors and handling nuclear materials fans the flames of nuclear proliferation. How many bomb-making reactors around the world are the result of 'skills transfer' from civil nuclear power? It would be far wiser to develop the skills of British engineers and scientists in safe renewable technologies for which there is a ready market around the world as the Dutch wind industry, Spanish CSP developments and our own nascent wave energy industry demonstrate.

Document section - Reprocessing of spent fuel

Question: 14. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on reprocessing? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Your response:
This area illustrates again the the failure of nuclear power. The nuclear dream was to have an industry at Sellafield reprocessing spent fuel, and fast breeder reactors to generate new fuel. The French and British fast breeders are closed and it appears that government has given up on reprocessing for new nuclear.

'Recycling' is a curious word to apply to radioactive wastes. Normal non-radioactive substances can often be recycled by composting, melting down or whatever. But radioactive wastes can only be re-arranged by separating one of the wastes from another, shuffled from one dump to a 'better' one, or simply thrown into the sea to spread around the world - "regulated radioactive discharges". This is the legacy we propose to leave to our descendants.

Document section - Other considerations

Question: 15. Are there any other issues or information that you believe need to be considered before taking a decision on giving energy companies the option of investing in nuclear power stations? And why?

Your response:
Nuclear power was born out of the nuclear weapons programmes of the victors of the second world war and remains inextricably linked to nuclear weapons. For years countries subsidised their 'civilian' nuclear industries in order to provide a flow of bomb-making material. The more widespread and available nuclear power becomes, the more countries will have the ability to make a bomb. Countries with a nuclear industry find it difficult to resist the temptation to recoup some of the expense by selling them abroad.

The more reactors there are scattered around the world, the greater the chance of fissile material such as plutonium falling into the hands of terrorists or unstable governments. Recent history illustrates all to well the dangers: The French supplied a nuclear plant to Iraq which in 1981, just before it could be turned on, the Israeli airforce bombed. The Israeli Government explained its reasons for the attack in a statement saying: "The atomic bombs which that reactor was capable of producing whether from enriched uranium or from plutonium, would be of the Hiroshima size. Thus a mortal danger to the people of Israel progressively arose." The possibility that Iraq might acquire nuclear material was stated by the UK government in the famous 'dossier' as one of the main justifications for the 2003 US and British invasion of Iraq. Currently European and US governments are preoccupied with the fear that Iran's avowedly peaceful nuclear power programme is a cover for developing a bomb and there is talk of a war with Iran. A similar fear existed with North Korea until the recent deal to close its reactors and give up its bomb.

The decades ahead are full of uncertainty and risk. Climate change and unchecked population growth will bring hunger and mass migrations. Nations will vie to secure access to scarce resources such as oil and water. These conditions are almost certain to provoke wars and sudden changes of regimes. There could scarcely be a worst world into which to introduce a new set of nuclear power stations generating tons more fissile material for bomb-making. To cap it all just as oil and gas run out almost completely in the second half of this century, these reactors will also require dismantling placing a huge cost on our children who simultaneously will be faced with making massive investments to build renewable energy systems. Many states are likely to be so weakened by economic recession that they are unable even to pay the salaries of staff maintaining and guarding the ageing nuclear installations - a scenario already too familiar following the collapse of the USSR.

Document section - Our proposals on nuclear power

Question: 16. In the context of tackling climate change and ensuring energy security, do you agree or disagree that it would be in the public interest to give energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations?

Your response:
I believe that investment in new nuclear would be an enormous waste of public money in an energy industry that has no future except as a source of danger to the public. Many billions of pounds have been pumped into nuclear while other promising energy technologies have been given tiny sums in comparison, e.g. the DTI's Low Carbon Buildings Programme provides just £6.5m over 3 years to subsidise the use of renewables by households. This is less than one two thousandth of the governments estimated cost for one nuclear power station. Yet the DTI's own figures show that solar water heating alone could produce as much as 6 nuclear power stations at a fraction of the cost.

The nuclear issue also produces an unhealthy focus on electricity production, diverting attention from space heating and transport that are the larger part of our energy use and that will never be supplied by nuclear. The runaway growth in air travel and motor vehicle use will wipe out any conceivable reduction in CO2 emissions that could be made by generating 20% of electricity from non-fossil sources, whether by dangerous nuclear or by safe wind energy. Electricity corresponds to just 16% of an average UK household’s carbon dioxide emissions. Only 19% of electricity is nuclear, so the nuclear contribution to reducing carbon emissions is at best 4% and probably more like 2% given the energy used in construction, mining, etc. Air travel represents 34% of an average household’s carbon emissions. So a 10% rise in air travel would wipe out all the possible gain of replacing the existing nuclear plants.

I appreciate that it must be difficult for government ministers to resist the pressure of the nuclear lobby and of the scientists and engineers who are employed in the nuclear industries. Tony Benn who as a minster in the 1960's was in charge of nuclear power and believed in it then, now says:

“Nuclear power is certainly not safe as we know from accidents at Windscale (now renamed Sellafield), from Three Mile Island in America and Chernobyl in the Ukraine, dangers which the authorities have always been determined to downplay.
Nor are Britain's civil nuclear power stations peaceful as for many years, and still possibly today, the plutonium they produce was sent to fuel the American nuclear weapons programme, making them into - what were in effect - bomb factories.
At no stage, as a minister, could I rely on being told the truth either by the Industry itself, or by my own civil servants who may or may not have known it themselves.”

Nuclear is simply in irrelevancy but if we go for it, it will suck in cash like a financial black hole, crippling investment in renewables. It would be a return to the bad old days of the CEGB which spent more on pro-nuclear advertising than its entire renewables research budget.

Question: 17. Are there other conditions that you believe should be put in place before giving energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations? (for example, restricting build to the vicinity of existing sites, or restricting build to approximately replacing the existing capacity)

Your response:
Government should make it plain that no new nuclear plants will be built in the UK and that instead industry should gear up for a massive expansion of renewable energy with a wartime sense of urgency. They should also be told to carry out a complete energy renovation of UK buildings. Starting in 1966 the Gas Board undertook a ten-year national programme to convert every appliance in the country from town gas to run on natural gas. Visits were made to 13 million homes and factories and 34 million individual appliances were converted. Similarly, In wartime factories rapidly switched to manufacture completely different products. Now we face a greater threat in climate change but seem to lack any sense of urgency: the recent decision to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012 is welcome but 5 years to change a light bulb isn't really good enough.

Document section - Our proposals for facilitative action

Question: 18. Do you think these are the right facilitative actions to reduce the regulatory and planning risks associated with such investments? Are there any other measures that you think the Government should consider?

Your response:
The case against nuclear power is so strong that the nuclear lobby want the process for planning permission for new stations to be rushed through with a minimum of debate. They will argue that we need nuclear power urgently to tackle climate change. There does not however seem to be any urgency in promoting any of the other technologies or energy saving that are safe and easy to introduce. If you need something urgently, nuclear should be the last option you should ever consider - remember its past performance: Dungeness B, took 24 years from start of construction to commercial operation (and subsequently has failed to produce even half of the expected power).

Government announcements frequently use the phrase that Britain must “keep nuclear power open as an option”; my own member of parliament defended the government’s position with the comment that the nuclear option should not be dismissed “out of hand”. I’m left wondering precisely what it would take to convince ministers that we should dismiss the nuclear option! It’s a dangerous, expensive, difficult technology which produces materials for nuclear and dirty bombs, it has no export potential for the UK, we live in terror of it falling into the wrong hands (and are currently involved in a war because of this fear), it has already suffered accidents killing thousands, it contaminates the environment with waste that will persist for more longer than recorded human history and is incapable of producing more than a tiny proportion of the energy the world wants.

If these arguments are not enough, perhaps ministers could try explaining their plans to groups of young children. Tell them that the proposed power stations will be worn out during their lifetimes. That they, their children and grandchildren will have to dismantle these stations over the following hundred years and then find holes to bury the waste, which must not be touched or escape for thousands of years. Describe how every year that the reactors operate they will produce enough material to make several nuclear bombs each capable of reducing a whole city to ashes. Explain that if we choose to build more nuclear plants, other countries will be more likely to do the same and more likely to acquire bombs. Tell them that a major accident in any country would poison much of a continent and that thousands of sheep in Britain are still unfit to eat because of one such accident that occurred in a far off country before they were born. Then tell them that some countries like Sweden have decided to reject nuclear power and are going to rely on energy saving and renewable sources like wind and solar. Finally tell them that you’re not going to do that because you think it costs more and you have better things to spend the money on.

We worry about getting the best food, health care and education for our children. We should be proud to invest in the safest forms of energy for them and future generations.