Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blair goes nuclear

The Labour left are not best pleased about Blair's 'back with a vengeance' speech about the need to replace Britain's ageing nuclear reactors. Here's a press release from the Labour Representation Committee:

'John McDonnell MP, Chair of the LRC, said: "Labour MPs and party members will be shocked that the Prime Minister has decided to pre-empt the energy review and try to bounce the Government into a decision on behalf of the nuclear industry like this.

'This announcement - made not to Parliament or the parliamentary Labour Party but at a dinner of New Labour's friends in the City - flies in the face of all consultation and all democratic procedures and completely ignores the widespread opposition within the party. It is an act of desperation of a leader who knows his time is running out.'

Given that the issue is shooting up the agenda, I'm afraid I have to confess to a shocking departure from leftwing orthodoxy on this one. I'm not opposed to nuclear energy on principle.

The safety record of nuclear reactors in the first world is good, and the technology has improved markedly since Windscale and Three Mile Island. With climate change among the most important problems facing humanity right now, nuclear electricity is an option that cannot be ruled out as an interim measure.

I'm not putting it any more strongly than that. Renewables are clearly preferable. But will they be able to deliver the goods in the required timescale?

Of course there is the issue of what to do with nuclear waste for the next few millenia. And there is a major question mark over whether or not the economics stack up.

But none of that should preclude a rational debate on the pros and cons of nuclear power. It's just a shame Blair is trying to bounce a reluctant populace into accepting a given outcome in advance.

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