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Labour pushes nuclear plants
THE GOVERNMENT has fast-tracked the building of ten new nuclear stations - riding roughshod over the objections of local communities, and ignoring cost and safety concerns.
The main beneficiaries are likely to be the giant energy and construction consortiums.
Energy secretary Ed Miliband reckons that nuclear power is "proven and reliable" - as if the reality of construction delays, lengthy safety shutdowns, and accidents at Sellafield, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, never happened!
The government also claims that nuclear power will plug its predicted 'energy gap' over the next decade and meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first claim was immediately contradicted when the government said it "hoped" some of the new plants could be producing electricity by 2018 ie in ten years time!
According to the 2008 Climate Change Act the government is obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34% by 2020 and meet a legally binding target of at least an 80% cut by 2050.
However, this planned renewal of existing nuclear capacity would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8%. Meanwhile, investment in renewables - such as wind and wave power, solar energy and geo-thermal energy - is a tiny fraction of the amount invested by government and big business in nuclear and fossil fuels energy.
It is also disingenuous to say that new nuclear power stations are carbon neutral, as this fails to take into account carbon emissions from mining fuel, transportation and construction of the plant itself. Also, as well as the unacceptable risk of accidents, nuclear waste cannot be safely disposed of at present - a radiation time-bomb for future generations.
Each of the ten proposed reactors will cost a staggering £5 billion. And, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF), this could underestimate real costs by a factor of three, as these estimates don't allow for the cost of building novel technologies and expensive delays in construction. For example Dungeness B power station, which took 23 years to complete instead of five, cost 400% above the predicted estimates!
Moreover, contrary to the government's propaganda that nuclear energy is a cheaper alternative to other energy sources, last month The Guardian revealed that government officials plan to subsidise the new generation of nuclear power stations.
The cost of this subsidy would be added to every householder's annual electricity bill - around £44 on average.
Big business also wants the public to pick up the huge tab for insurance and decommissioning. Decommissioning the Dounreay reactor alone will cost £3 billion over 30 years.
Capitalism is a profit-driven system which enriches a minority of individuals at the expense of the majority. It is a system that cannot meet human needs without wrecking the environment.
Only socialism, by ending the anarchy of the profit system, can democratically plan economies to meet human needs on an environmentally sustainable basis.
In The Socialist 18 November 2009:
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