Socialist Worker

Labour's nuclear power plan isn't safe and isn't green

Despite government claims, nuclear power isn't the solution to climate change

Issue No. 2053

Gordon Brown's government will push ahead with the building of new nuclear power plants.

The government's latest energy white paper claims that the way to reduce carbon emissions is through nuclear power.

Alistair Darling, the trade and industry secretary, said it would be a 'profound mistake' to rule out building new nuclear power stations.

The 'profound mistake' would be to invest in the failed and dangerous nuclear energy industry.

Nuclear power is not a sensible option for energy production – it's not cheap, it's not safe, and it certainly isn't green.

Supporters of the nuclear industry say that the Chernobyl disaster – where a nuclear reactor in Ukraine exploded in 1986 – couldn't happen again.

They claim nuclear power stations in the West are more modern and safer.

This is not the case, there were 57 'incidents' at British nuclear power stations between 1997 and 2006 according to a parliamentary answer by the former minister of energy, Malcolm Wicks.

These incidents ranged from radiation leaks and machinery failure to contamination of ground water and employees' clothes, and a fire.

Even if there are no accidents during the production of energy, we still have no safe way of storing nuclear waste. In Britain there is already 1.75 million cubic metres of nuclear waste either in storage or predicted to arise from existing sources – which has a half life of tens of thousands of years.

There is currently no long-term understanding of what to do with it.

The nuclear industry is only seen as an affordable option because of massive government subsidies. Under privatisation companies profit while we pay if there are any accidents and for the long term clean up.

Alaister Darling promises that private companies will cover the cost of decommissioning and nuclear waste.

Yet the taxpayer is already facing a £75 billion bill for the plants currently in use.

This is on top of the yearly cost paying for the British nuclear industry to be part of the international nuclear club.

The government is also proposing to cut down the time for planning inquiries from several years to nine months.

Nuclear power is only carbon neutral if you ignore everything apart from the act of fission – uranium mining, transportation, building the plant, building storage for waste and so on.

Even if you manage to look past that then the doubling of nuclear power in Britain would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by no more than 8 percent. But we need to reduce emissions by 90 percent.

New nuclear power plants benefit no one but big business. We need urgent action over climate change, and we have to force the government to put the planet before profit.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 29 May 2007, 18:53 BST
Issue No. 2053
Share this article



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.