15 June 2011
Professor John Whitelegg, Green Party national spokesperson on Sustainable Development and former Lancaster City Councillor, responds to events at Fukushima.
"When the history of nuclear electricity generation is finally written readers will wonder how a supposedly intelligent species could embrace a technology with such enormous destructive potential. The catalogue of disastrous consequences associated with Chernobyl and Fukushima tell their own story and point unerringly to the need to follow the German and Swiss examples and terminate nuclear electricity generation and shut down the plants.
Nuclear power is a moral and ethical issue of enormous importance. Should we embrace a technology that is used to produce electricity to boil kettles, operate lights and run domestic appliances when the consequences of human error and technical failure are so very dramatic and long lived? Should we embrace a technology that requires the transport and storage of highly dangerous nuclear materials across the country and across the world often on trains that traverse London or go though all our main population centres in the NW? The risks are too great to be tolerated and the time is long overdue when we should embrace alternative sources of electricity generation especially the so-called renewables (wind, wave, tidal, solar) that do not carry the risks associated with nuclear.
The moral and ethical issue is made considerably easier to handle because scientific analysis shows that we can shut down the nuclear option and meet our electricity demand from efficiency savings microgeneration, renewables and some gas and coal (Stockholm Environment Institute, 2009). We do not need nuclear power.
Getting rid of nuclear power brings about a large number of co-benefits in addition to the elimination of unacceptably high risks. These include large scale job creation of the kind already seen in wind energy in Denmark and photo-voltaics in Germany. The UK has considerable resources of renewable energy in its wave and tidal environment and exploiting these resources can create thousands of jobs in places that really need them including Liverpool, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Heysham, Barrow, Whitehaven and Workington. These jobs will be additional to the many thousands of jobs that will still be needed to deal with decommissioning of Sellafield, Heysham reactors and the other nuclear facilities associated with fuel fabrication in the NW.
A nuclear free future for the NW is something really worth fighting for. The region can be freed from the multiple risks of nuclear accidents and failures, it can be transformed into a shining beacon of innovation and job creation linked to renewables and the billions of pounds likely to be thrown into the nuclear option can be put to socially useful and sustainable purposes rather than increasing the likelihood of a major ecological disaster."
Stockholm Environment Institute (2009) Europe’s share of the climate challenge