NUCLEAR POWER – TONY FINALLY COMES CLEAN
I should probably start this entry by making clear that the pro-nuclear views expressed in it are my own and not necessarily those of the Conservative party. My own position could hardly be a secret – nobody who had any doubts about the safety of nuclear reprocessing would have moved his family three hundred miles to within a few miles of Sellafield in order to fight the Copeland constituency and nobody with reservations about civil nuclear power would have made substantial personal sacrifices in the attempt to become MP for a community where about 17,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on the nuclear industry.
David Cameron has announced a review into the party’s policy on energy policy which I believe to be a genuine exercise in the sense that he has not predetermined the outcome. Because I also believe that the argument for a balanced energy policy in which civil nuclear power plays a role is overwhelming, I have every hope that those of us who support nuclear power will be able to persuade the Conservative party to include nuclear as part of its energy strategy.
Contrary to the assertions of the anti-nuclear ultras, this is not in any way incompatible with support for much greater use of a wider range of renewable energy, much more support for energy saving, and more effective action to prevent carbon emissions from given industrial processes and sources of energy reaching the atmosphere. Neither is nuclear energy necessarily uneconomic, especially as compared to other forms of power generation which do not involve ongoing carbon release such as wind power. Any fair tax and regulatory economic system designed to reduce carbon emissions, such as the Conservative party’s recent proposals on the environment, is likely to improve the economic position of the nuclear industry.
Tony Blair’s statements in the past 48 hours finally make clear who was being conned during the last election, when it was obvious that Labour was facing both ways on nuclear power. Communities like West Cumbria where the local economy is utterly dependent on the nuclear industry were subject to “nudge-nudge-wink-wink” hints that if Labour won there would be new nuclear build, while at the same time the public statements of Labour ministers reassured the anti-nuclear lobby that no decisions had been taken and the government still had serious concerns about nuclear power.
The minister who expressed the strongest reservations about nuclear power was of course Elliott Morley. The fact that he has now been sacked, and yesterday denounced Tony Blair’s energy review as a fix, suggests that he was personally sincere in the views he expressed and believed that his statements as a minister represented government policy. Yet another person finds out the hard way that you should never, ever trust Tony Blair.
I am relieved that it appears to be the community I live in who were told the truth last year, in the sense that someone was obviously being deceived and set up for a stab in the back, and I would prefer it were the anti-nuclear campaigners rather than my friends and neighbours. However, you don’t have to agree with a word Elliott
Morley says to regard his treatment by the Prime Minister as extremely shabby.
I should add that any decision to allow new nuclear build does not bring with it any guarantees about where the new facilities will be. It is almost inevitable that any new plants will have to be built where the local community wants them, which effectively means on or adjacent to existing nuclear sites. However, we in West Cumbria cannot take for granted that we will win one of the new facilities and need to campaign hard to ensure that we do.
The one certainty about the future of energy policy is that there will be a series of gigantic rows, of which nuclear will not be the only one, and many of the arguments will be cross-party. There are divisions within as well as between the major political parties and among environmentalists. But at least the debate has started and, for the moment, support for a balanced energy policy appears to be gaining ground.