Meltdown for Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists
Meltdown for Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists
By Jonathon Porritt /

I wonder what our pro-nuclear greenies will be thinking this week as they listen to President Xi Jinping and George Osborne bombastically declaring ‘a new nuclear dawn for the UK’. I hope they’ll be feeling as ashamed as they should be.

It may be just a little harsh to blame the meltdown in UK energy policy on a handful of well-meaning but monumentally misguided environmentalists, who chose some time ago to lend their voices to the nuclear establishment here in the UK. They were warned that it would probably end in tears, and so it has turned out. Here’s the indictment against them:

1. They were warned that their high-profile support would prove to be massively confusing for many people, including a large number of environmentalists who were persuaded (often against their better judgement) that if the likes of George Osborne and his pro-nuclear buddies had decided that nuclear is ‘a necessary evil’, then that was good enough for them.

Personally, I suspect that this may even have influenced Friends of the Earth as it went through a hugely damaging ‘review’ of its own anti-nuclear stance a couple of years ago. Happily, under new CEO Craig Bennett, that deeply damaging equivocation has been set aside – and FoE will be first to be tweeting its disdain for George Osborne’s latest nuclear shenanigans this week.

(There are even those who think that the pro-nuclear greenies are one of the reasons why Greenpeace’s campaign against nuclear power here in the UK has been anaemic at best, and utterly irrelevant at worst.)

2. They were warned that EdF’s EPR (the reactor of choice for Hinkley Point) had already proved to be a total plonker at both Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland. And that it would inevitably prove to be a total plonker here in the UK. And so it has turned out.

To be fair, even they eventually woke up to that ineluctable reality, shamefacedly putting out a statement on September 18th:

‘Hinkley C bears all the distinguishing features of a white elephant: overpriced, overcomplicated and overdue. The delay that was announced recently should be the final straw. The Government should kill the project.’

3. They were warned that any kind of pro-nuclear positioning would be devastating for the genuinely sustainable alternatives they simultaneously purport to support. And that any kind of ‘both/and’ story (ie we need both lots of nuclear and lots ofrenewables) would be totally abused by a Government that cares only about nuclear – and about fracking.

And so it has proved to be, as Osborne has trashed the prospects for renewableshere in the UK, has consigned to history our zero-carbon agenda for the built environment, has ridiculed the importance of energy efficiency, and, in the process, has guaranteed that we have literally no chance whatsoever of achieving our statutory targets under the Climate Change Act.

4. They were warned that when you sup with these nuclear devils you can never be sure what you’re going to end up with. It’s no surprise to me, therefore, that our pro-nuke greenies have been keeping very quiet about the now inevitable prospect of a huge part of our energy system in the UK being handed over to the Chinese.

Neither Osborne nor Xi Jinping is particularly persuaded by EdF’s case for theEPR at Hinkley Point. But they’re both salivating with excitement at the prospect of giving the Chinese nuclear industry control over future developments at bothSizewell and Bradwell. How can that possibly work from a sustainability point of view, let alone an energy security point of view? Even the Tories have started to wake up to this particular horror story.

Once captured by the nuclear industry, you don’t get to choose what you think might be the best (ie least problematic) option: you get what you’re given. And as pro-nuclear environmentalists, you get stitched up by an industry that gobbles up people like you for breakfast, that has lied, inveigled and bribed its way into the heart of umpteen governments over decades, often off the back of its still undeniable links to the nuclear weapons establishment. So just how naïve can you be?

That’s some indictment. Five years ago, the UK was seen to be an indisputable leader in the international diplomacy of climate change. In Paris in a few weeks’ time we will be seen as an out-and-out pariah, sitting alongside the carbon-intensive horror stories of Canada and Australia. To be sure, that’s primarily down to the Tories, and George Osborne in particular, with a lot of rather forlorn aiding and abetting from the Lib Demsunder the last Coalition Government. But maybe they wouldn’t have got away with all that quite so easily if the Green Movement had been a lot more resolute in its advocacy ofgenuinely sustainable energy solutions.

So for God’s sake, think again before you shift your allegiance to the latest ‘just over the horizon’ dreams now being peddled so enthusiastically by the nuclear industry. In your recent recantation on the EPR front, here’s what you said:

‘We urge the Government to scrap this plant (Hinkley C), and use the money promised to its investors to accelerate the deployment of other low carbon technologies, both renewable and nuclear. We would like to see the Government produce a comparative study of nuclear technologies, including the many proposed designs for small modular reactors, and make decisions according to viability and price, rather than following the agenda of the companies which have its ear.’

Elsewhere, you’ve made the case for the Integral Fast Reactor, and your colleague Stephen Tindale (a former Executive Director of Greenpeace UK) is out thereproselytising passionately about the Molten Salt Reactor. Others bang on and on about Pebble Bed Reactors, or a variety of new reactors based on thorium technologies*.

Give yourselves a break, guys! It is indeed just about possible, tens of billions of dollars and decades down the line, that one of these nuclear will-o’-the-wisps may materialise in such a form as to produce a few usable electrons. In the meantime, that big old fusion reactor in the sky, known as ‘the sun’, will go on producing the wherewithal torevolutionise every aspect of our energy systems down here on Earth at a price that everyone will be able to afford.

And then bring in all the other renewables, reducing in price all the time, as well as a whole generation of new technologies driving both energy efficiency and storage, set to work through distributed micro-grids and the explosion of investment in electric vehicles, and you can see the future emerging right here and now in our everyday lives.

It took you all a very long time to recognise the EPR as the humungous white elephant it has been all along. So, please, think again before backing another whole herd of tomorrow’s white elephants, and get back to doing what you once did really well: advocating for the kind of radical decarbonisation on which our future depends – killing off coal and kerosene first, and then oil and gas, through technologies that are alreadydoing the job, in an increasingly affordable way, for rich countries and poor countries alike.

* If you’re interested in reading more about these variegated nuclear pipedreams, then just subscribe to ‘The Ecologist’. Time after time, Editor Oliver Tickell and his fellow authors have painstakingly dispelled these false hopes and endless promises of nuclear jam tomorrow. For example:

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 12,513 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,183 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 2,439 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 2,199 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,979 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,755 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,526 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 940 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 920 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 811 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 790 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 775 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 575 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 455 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 406 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 384 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 334 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 290 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism
Chris Hedges · 281 views today · College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in...
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
Deirdre Fulton · 259 views today · 'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Meltdown for Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists