Press release: 17 March 2010
A new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is not needed and would leave an unacceptable legacy of radioactive waste to future generations, the leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt told a packed meeting of the Stop Hinkley campaign in Taunton last night (Tuesday 16 March).
“It would be totally wrong to impose on future generations a problem for which we have no solution,” he said. “We don't know how to deal with nuclear waste. There is no clear strategy. We are just hoping that the next generation can sort it out.”
This included the spent nuclear fuel which would be stored at a new Hinkley nuclear power station for as long as 160 years.
Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth and head of the government advisory body, the Sustainable Development Commission, said he had both practical and ethical objections to a new construction programme of nuclear plants, of which Hinkley “C” would be the first.
“I have huge concerns about the cost of nuclear power,” he said. “Don't believe a single word that comes out of the industry. This is an industry that has obscured, concealed, lied and deviated from the truth from the 1950s onwards.” He gave the example of the £76 billion it now emerged it would cost to decommission existing nuclear facilities, let alone any new ones. This money would have to come directly from the taxpayer.
The economics of nuclear power were so unreliable, he added, that it was possible that Hinkley C would never be built because investors would have nothing to do with it.
He was also sceptical that new nuclear reactors like the ones proposed at Hinkley would help in the battle against climate change. “Even if we replaced all our existing fleet of reactors, as the government wants, we would still only cut about 4% of our 1990 level of carbon dioxide emissions,” he said. “The idea that we can wheel in nuclear power to deal with our low carbon imperative is a flawed argument.”
No new nuclear plant was likely to be up and running before the middle of the next decade, he added, which would be too little too late.
Instead, Porritt painted a picture in which Britain 's future energy needs would be met by access to endless and clean sustainable energy. “I am absolutely persuaded that this is deliverable,” he said.
His prescription included four elements – a major campaign on energy efficiency, massive investment in renewable power, more use of combined heat and power generation and, in a transition period, the development of cleaner fossil fuels.
On energy efficiency he said that the UK could reduce energy consumption by 30 to 40% over the next two decades by measures like improving the efficiency of the existing housing stock. “The government just hasn't done enough,” he said. “The fact that you don't hear politicians talking about this is a nightmare.”
On renewable power he said that we were “the most blessed country in Europe ”, with tides, wind and waves waiting to be exploited round our coasts. “This is no longer a niche industry,” he added. “Renewable power has become a major international industry and now commands billions of pounds of investment around the world.”
Porritt said he was in favour of a power-generating barrage across the Severn Estuary, in spite of its potential environmental and social costs. This would meet up to 10% of the country's electricity needs.
Porritt concluded that although “climate change is serious, we have an alternative to nuclear power. I find this hugely exciting. But there's a battle for the hearts and minds of green activists. That's why your Stop Hinkley campaign is so important, and it needs to get bigger.”
About 150 people attended the Stop Hinkley meeting in the Temple Methodist Hall, Taunton . They were encouraged to sign a petition against the new Hinkley “C” power station. This will be presented to the government when a planning application is submitted by Electricite de France, probably in August.
Jim Duffy, Coordinator of Stop Hinkley said: "People said they found Jonathon's upbeat talk inspirational - the way he handled the heavy subject matter was in an easy entertaining manner. Some waiverers said they were convinced by his arguments. I think decision-makers should pay attention to the brighter outcome for present and future generations that this very respected environmentalist has mapped out."