Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Ministerial Blogger and nukes

Reading: Some pages of Robert Goddard's Past Caring, Sunday Times (aargh -I gave money to Murdoch!), Sunday Express (I didn't buy it!), Urban 75 boards, Radio Times, BBC News website.
Listening: Beautiful South, Radio Five.
Viewing: Coronation Street.

David Miliband, newly tasked by Blair to guide through the nuclear stitch-up, sorry, review - and sometimes pointed to as a possible "heir to Blair" is in the news for a number of reasons.
One of these is that he has become Britain's first "Ministerial Blogger", no doubt leading to panic amongst the control freaks and spin doctors of New Labour land, in case he leaked some important nugget like the brand of tea bags used in DEFRA canteen.
The more serious reason is the rather unbelievable claim that he is "open minded" on the future of nuclear energy in Britain, a claim somewhat undermined by the story in today's Sunday Times that his constituency association chair, Alan Donnelly, is executive chairman of a lobbying group called Sovereign Strategy - a lobbying group that acts for US nuclear industry multinational Fluor, and also shares offices and staff with nuclear lobbying group TANEF. TANEFs "legislative chair" is none other than our old "friend" Jack, now Lord, glow-in-the-dark Cunningham. Their "industry chair" is Fluor's group president.
So Blair's nuclear review is a foregone conclusion amidst links to lobby groups - groups that do not even sign up to the APCC code agreed by other lobbyists - and background manoeuvres by powerful business interests - suggests the Times? Well, you could knock me over with a feather, Rupert!

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At 11:28 am, Blogger Joe Otten said...

You are probably right about the stitch-up.

However, other things being equal (other things = renewables, efficiency measures etc), wouldn't you rather have nuclear to replace, say, coal and gas generation. I.e. isn't global warming a bigger threat than nuclear waste? How do you quantify those two threats in order to make the comparison.

(Some of my thoughts on this question are here)

At 12:40 pm, Blogger greenman said...

I think a major argument against the nuclear option is that going down the nuclear path will eat up the investment required for renewables, by virtue of the expense of the nuclear option (in a similar way to which the incineration route for waste management disincentivizes and robs recycling and zero waste strategies). This is before we mention that Uranium is not a renewable energy source and the full cycle is not carbon neutral. And without even mentioning waste, terrorism, the smokeshield for nuclear weapons production, corporate domination and the relative unsuitability of nuclear power for decentralisation, localisation or popular ownership/control.

At 1:11 pm, Blogger greenman said...

Just to add, that before someone accuses me of wanting to break up the national grid on the basis of the last line of my last statement, that is not the case, the national grid is a valuable element of an energy security policy - but the capacity for localisation is also valuable, and local renewables/microgeneration have already shown that they can make a contribution by lightening the load of demand on the grid.

At 3:04 pm, Blogger Joe Otten said...

OK, greenman, but my question was just a little bit harder. What if there were an opportunity for nuclear to "eat up" some of the investment otherwise headed for gas or coal?

We're talking about one kind of centralised, polluting, capital-intensive, blah-de-blah power source or another. Then what? Global warming or nuclear waste?

As I see it, if we recognised (by a price or tax-like mechanism) the true costs of coal, and the short-termism of gas, this would improve the relative cost-efficiency of both renewables and nuclear. It would promote investment in both.

All this local microgeneration, efficiency, CHP etc is good stuff, and it presses all the right-sounding buttons, but I can't see the numbers adding up without a good share of conventional generation in the mix as well. What is the least-bad option for the conventional generation?

At 8:49 am, Blogger greenman said...

Well, as there is a great need for development of clean coal technology, exploration of the carbon capture option etc (as most of the *worlds* energy is generated from fossil fuels and is likely to be for the foreseeable future - see China)and also as these would give more energy security than nuclear, I don't think we should throw out the coal option just yet, which appears to be what you are suggesting. (Gas is another matter) It is interesting that faced with the option you are presenting, environmental groups (even Friends of The Earth UK as far as I understand it) are prepared to look at the option I am suggesting in preference. Tower Colliery in Wales have shown what can be achieved on a collective/co-operative ownership basis in raw materials for energy supply. If the emissions issue can be satisfactorily dealt with by technical means there is a potential win-win situation creating the "fossil fuel bridge" that used to be talked about (and should have happened 20 years ago)to a renewables-based energy strategy. The other element that needs investment and has potentially MASSIVE energy saving potential is of course energy efficiency and use reduction - I saw some impressive figures recently simply based on mass introduction of low energy light bulbs, that could be achieved legislatively.


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