Gordon Brown’s government confirmed an earlier U-turn last week when it backed plans for a new generation of building of new privately built and run nuclear power stations in Britain.
Nuclear power is rightly seen by many as dangerous and expensive.
But the government and the nuclear industry now want us to believe it is a clean, efficient and cheap energy source.
It is being sold to us as a way to tackle climate change by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We are told that the full costs of the construction of the new power stations will be borne by private companies.
But presenting nuclear power as a “green” alternative to fossil fuels is a barefaced lie. At every stage of the production of nuclear power, carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.
The use of nuclear power is unlikely to reduce dependence on fossil fuels because it only supplies electricity – 86 percent of oil and gas consumption is used for other things.
The official bill for dismantling existing nuclear plants rose 16 percent between 2006 and 2007 to £73 billion. Dealing with nuclear waste costs £2.8 billion a year.
It is inconceivable that private companies will involve themselves in an industry where they cannot make profits.
They were free to build nuclear power stations prior to the government’s announcement last week – but high costs are a major deterrent.
Because of this, not a single nuclear power station has been built in Britain without subsidies from the government.
The most recent station, Sizewell B, received around £3.7 billion. The scale of the subsidies given to nuclear power is staggering when compared with those given to other, cheaper forms of energy.
The government has also had to bail out every reactor that has been built. Some £3.4 billion was spent helping nuclear firm British Energy when it said it was facing bankruptcy in 2002.
There is nothing in the government’s new Energy Bill to stop this happening again.
It concedes that in “extreme circumstances” the government may have to pick up the bill to protect “the public and the environment”.
Critics of nuclear power are told that alternatives would be more expensive. But the government’s figures show that wind power will be the cheapest form of electricity generation by 2020. The costs of producing solar energy are falling.
All nuclear power stations in Britain have been more expensive than initially promised. Nuclear power has a terrible safety record and poses a serious threat to human life and the environment.
Brown would have us believe that nuclear power is green, cheap and efficient. In fact it is the opposite of all those things – and we need to urgently campaign against it.
Climate Change: Why Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, a Socialist Worker pamphlet by Martin Empson is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848