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National debate on nuclear power (UK 2005-2006)

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This article is part of a series on the
2005-2006 national debate on nuclear
power in the UK

For more articles on this topic,
see the NuclearSpin website

The possibility of a national debate on nuclear power was first floated by Tony Blair a couple of weeks before the 2005 UK general election. According to the BBC at the time, the Prime Minister "...wanted a national debate on the issue. He would raise the issue when ministers responded to a climate change policy review in June or July..." [1]

In the event, it was not until November 2005 that the issue received real prominence in the media, after Blair's advisers told The Times that he wanted to build a new generation of nuclear power stations [2].

In late November 2005, a review of UK energy policy was announced, to be headed by Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks [3]. It was launched on Monday 23rd January [4], with an accompanying consultation document [5].

In a joint letter to British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, 40 of Britain’s leading energy and climate scientists have stated that building more nuclear reactors is not the solution to global warming. According to them, nuclear power is “a limited, inflexible, expensive and potentially dangerous energy source which creates unique problems”. They conclude: “We strongly urge the UK government not to decide in favour of a new generation of nuclear power stations, but rather to invest the resources and research effort into alternatives.” Leading scientists attack Blair over nuclear power

On May 16, 2006, Tony Blair stated that he backs the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK. His remarks are bound to provoke huge controversy.[6] Nuclear power stations supply one-fifth of the nation's electricity. [7]

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Mr Blair said failure to take such long-term decisions would be a "serious dereliction of our duty to the future of this country". [8] (See also Blair's pro-nuclear Cabinet)

Responding to the announcement by Blair that replacing the UK's nuclear power stations is "back on the agenda with a vengeance" Mike Weir MP, the SNP shadow energy spokesperson said that it exposed Blair's energy review as a complete sham. [9]

The Liberal Democrats (UK) have criticised the prime minister for having "made up his mind" to support a new generation of nuclear power stations, even before the publication of the government's energy review. [10]


Recent PR activity by the nuclear lobby

According to journalists Jonathan Leake and Dan Box, "...in the year or so before the general election, the nuclear industry slowly but surely put together a classy public relations act. And it was not just targeting politicians and the media." [11] Here is a chronology of that public relations build-up:

  • October 2004: British Energy (BE) appoints Craig Stevenson, formerly Monsanto's top UK lobbyist, as head of government affairs [12].
  • December 2004: BE gives former energy minister Helen Liddell a short-term contract to provide "strategic advice". Her fee is about £15,000. [13]
  • March 23, 2005: Amec hosts an off-the-record breakfast for leading business journalists. The speakers are the government's chief scientist David King, former energy minister Brian Wilson, and Dipesh Shah, chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. [17]
  • May 2005: BNFL press officer Jamie Reed retains the constituency of Copeland, which includes the Sellafield nuclear plant, for Labour. Reed was selected from a shortlist composed exclusively of PR professionals, all but one of whom had connections to the nuclear industry. [18] Another of the PR men on the shortlist, Stuart Bruce, wrote shortly after the election that: "One of the challenges facing Jamie will be to help push the government into an essential replacement programme for our nuclear power stations. Good luck." [19]
  • August 2005: BNFL funds 'accommodation' costs for Scottish MSPs to visit the reprocessing plant at Sellafield [20].
  • January 2006: In response to enquiries by the Sunday Herald, the CPG erases the name of BNFL lobbyist Thomas Docherty from its website [22] [23] [24]

PR firms currently retained by the nuclear industry

Lobbyists for the nuclear industry

Prominent supporters and opponents of nuclear energy

For

Against

Tony Blair's 2004 comments about US lobbying for nuclear power

In July 2004, The Guardian reported that Tony Blair, in his appearance before the Commons Select Committee on Liaison, had

"...disclosed that America was pressing Britain to look again at the nuclear option, including a new generation of stations that some claim will be safer and cheaper... He revealed he was being lobbied by the US to look at nuclear power as the best way of cutting carbon emissions." [31]

Blair's actual comments to the committee were:

"To be fair to the United States, they raised some of these issues to do with nuclear power. Where they have shifted their ground somewhat is that they used to be saying they did not accept this [climate change] as a problem. They are now saying we do accept it as a problem, but if we accept it as a problem, why is nuclear power ruled off the agenda? Why are we unprepared to look at this solution and that solution? That is where they do have a point." [32] (Q210)

SourceWatch resources

External links

Articles about the nuclear industry and PR

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