Public doubts over nuclear power persist

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Public doubts over nuclear power persist
By Rebecca Bream

Published: September 10 2007 04:03 | Last updated: September 10 2007 04:03

Serious misgivings about nuclear power remain as well as concerns over the role of private sector operators in the industry according to the largest ever public consultation to be held in the UK.

A sample of 1,000 people in nine cities were asked to give their views on whether the government should give the green light to a new generation of nuclear power stations in a series of workshops on Saturday.

The day was hailed by ministers as a victory for the democratic process and a reflection of prime minister Gordon Brown’s push to involve a wider range of people in policy-making.

In a poll held at the end of the sessions, participants were asked whether, “in the context of tackling climate change and ensuring energy security”, it was in the public interest to give energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations. According to the initial un-weighted results, just under 47 per cent of participants agreed nuclear should be an option, while just under 37 per cent disagreed.

However, polls throughout the day revealed a great deal of scepticism about nuclear power . At the London event, the number of people agreeing with the assertion was lower at the end of the day than at the start.

In its energy white paper, published in May, the government said its preliminary view was that new nuclear reactors were needed in the UK’s energy mix, and it should clear the way for the private sector to build them. But an earlier court ruling brought by environmental groups which judged that the original consultation was “very seriously flawed” forced the government to hold a fresh process. This ends on October 10, with a decision expected in November or early December.

Environmental groups led by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth boycotted Saturday’s events, calling the consultation “a sham” and “a rubber-stamping exercise designed to push through the prime minister’s pre-ordained policy on nuclear energy”.

Anti-nuclear arguments were put forward in the information videos shown to participants, but they were outweighed by pro-nuclear interviews with John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI, the pro-business organisation, and John McNamara, a spokesman for the Nuclear Industries Association.

Many people said the main weakness was the lack of detailed information available on issues such as the dangers posed by nuclear waste and the pros and cons of other forms of electricity generation.

A large number of the London participants said they did not trust the private sector to tackle the storage and disposal of nuclear waste properly.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Posted in |