Greens seek nuclear power rethink in wake of Japan tragedy

By staff writers
14 Mar 2011

Green Party of England and Wales leader Caroline Lucas says that the nuclear lessons of the unfolding tragedy in Japan must be learned in the UK and elsewhere.

Expressing her sorrow and sympathy at the developments, Dr Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, commented: "Clearly, the nuclear incidents at Fukushima, and elsewhere in Japan since the earthquake, are collectively one of the worst in the 50-year history of the international nuclear industry.

"There may have been a partial meltdown of the fuel rods at reactor No.1 at Fukushima Daiichi. There may be a partial meltdown underway at reactor No.3 of Fukushimi Daiichi. Engineers are pumping seawater into reactor No.3, a reactor that uses a mixed-oxide fuel which contains plutonium, making the problem potentially more serious. As well, at Tokai No.2 nuclear power plant, in Ibaraki, the cooling system pump has stopped. Finally, at a third complex in Onagawa, radiation levels are above safety margins.

"In terms of lessons learnt, we welcome Chris Huhne's announcement that the Chief Nuclear Inspector, Dr Mike Weightman will produce a report on the implications of the situation in Japan for the UK."

Mr Huhne, a Liberal Democrat MP, was appointed Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change following the 2010 general election.

In November 2007, he referred to nuclear power as a "tried, tested and failed technology which was clearly a costly blind alley."

However, the Lib Dems have come under pressure to compromise their position significantly since entering a coalition with the Conservatives.

"It appears that the Fukushima Daiichi complex was affected not by the quake per se, but the failure of grid electricity and back-up diesel electricity supply for cooling, and that could easily happen elsewhere," continued Dr Lucas.

"Nuclear power carries inherent risks," she declared, "and is particularly vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure, and natural disaster. Given that there are cheaper, quicker, and crucially, safer ways of meeting our energy needs and emisson reduction targets, it is particularly perverse here in the UK to launch the building of a fleet of new nuclear power stations.

"In the UK, nuclear power generates less than four per cent of our electricity. We urgently need to meet short-term targets to prevent the risk of runaway climate change. Nuclear power cannot help with that, but significant state-led investments in renewable power and energy efficiency could.

"The problem with a centralised electrical grid is the prospect of failures that affect millions of people. Basing our energy system around a decentralised energy grid would avoid this," the Green Party leader concluded.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Greenpeace are among the organisations who have already suggested that the UK government and others need a major rethink of their nuclear power biases in the light of developments in Japan.

[Ekk/3]

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