June 20, 2006: Ming Campbell outlined the Liberal Democrats’ opposition to a new generation of nuclear power stations and then went on to visit a Combined Heat & Power Plant in Woking. If you would like to hear a live recording of his speech, you can download it and listen to it on your MP3 player, or click on the button below to listen to it now on your computer.
Nuclear Power is not the answer to the ‘energy gap’.
It is less secure, far more expensive, more environmentally unfriendly and more risky than the alternatives.
The government has failed to spell out who will pay for a new generation of nuclear power stations.
The Government’s own White Paper in 2003 said that nuclear power was an “unattractive option” on grounds of cost and waste.
Nothing has changed since then to make it an attractive option, despite the Prime Minister’s claims to the contrary.
It is time to set out some facts to counter the unhealthy spin of this government.
One: the economics of nuclear power simply don’t add up.
Because the risks are so hard to quantify, no-one can predict how much it will cost.
Taxpayers are already liable to pay up to £90 billion to clean up after the existing generation of nuclear power stations.
The taxpayers are picking up the tab because when the last government privatised British Nuclear Fuels, investors refused to shoulder the risk. There is no indication that they are any more willing to take on that risk this time.
Nuclear power is not attractive to the private sector without massive state subsidies, either in the form of grants for construction, tax breaks, the assumption of environmental risks or the rigging of the market to guarantee prices in the future.
The government has not come clean on who will subsidise nuclear power.
Mark my words: it will be taxpayers and consumers in the form of higher energy bills.
The Prime Minister likes to use the example of a new nuclear power station built in Finland.
It is simply not true to say that it did not require subsidies.
The Finnish government is guaranteeing decommissioning and waste storage costs, and the construction was subsidised by the French government which has an interest in the deal.
Two: there remains no easy solution to nuclear waste. No country on earth has solved the problem of what to do with radioactive waste.
It is not true that new power stations generate one tenth of the waste of existing technologies.
The House of Commons own Environmental Audit Committee said that another generation of power stations would generate 400% more high-level toxic waste due to the loss of re-processing facilities.
Decommissioning and waste storage are massively expensive, and when factored into the cost of nuclear power it becomes an economic nonsense.
Three: investing so much money in nuclear power will crowd out investment in renewables.
At a time when renewable technology is advancing year on year this is irresponsible to say the least.
New nuclear power stations would not come on line until 2018 at the earliest.
The twin problems of climate change and security of supply require much more urgent action than that.
When we can have a green, local, cheaper and more flexible alternative, why on earth should we and future generations pay more for radioactive nuclear power?
A flexible, decentralised energy infrastructure that will allow smaller production units and less inefficient electricity distribution, is possible.
If we aggressively pursue energy efficiency measures, promote renewables and carbon capture and storage for gas and clean-coal power stations and begin the process of ‘re-wiring Britain’ as outlined in the government’s own 2003 energy strategy, we don’t need new nuclear power stations.
The only way the government can sell the fiction of nuclear necessity to the British taxpayer, is if it hides the nuclear tax. But make no mistake we will be paying for it for years to come.
This is rapidly turning from Blair’s legacy into Brown’s liability, he has abandoned his iron will and is writing a blank cheque – and ultimately the British people will foot the bill …….. nuclear power is not a legacy it is a liability.