Leading environmentalists debate nuclear power in Glasgow

By staff writers
April 1, 2011

Two leading environmental campaigners will go head-to-head in Glasgow, Scotland tomorrow, to debate the pros and cons of nuclear power.

The Scottish Green Party's co-convenor Patrick Harvie and George Monbiot, one of Britain's leading commentators on environmental issues, will discuss the issues in front of a passionate audience on Saturday 2 April 2011.

The event, at Glasgow's Citizen's Theatre, is part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.

Greens remain opposed to new nuclear power and the extension of the operating life of Scotland's existing plants, on grounds that include cost, safety, waste, carbon emissions, and unsustainability for the long term.

Monbiot, on the other hand, watching the outcome of how the earthquake and tsunami affected Japan, says he is convinced that nuclear is a better option than coal.

"The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power. I am no longer nuclear neutral," he declared in the Guardian newspaper, where he writes a weekly column. "I now support the technology."

Patrick Harvie responded: "George Monbiot has been a stalwart of the environment movement for decades now, but in recent weeks he's lost the plot on nuclear. Even before Fukushima we knew that nuclear is neither safe nor reliable, just from the track record of leaks and unplanned shutdowns in Scotland. For George to say Fukushima has convinced him to support nuclear is like saying the Titanic disaster persuaded him not to worry about icebergs."

"It's not economic, either," claims the Scottish Greens' co-leader. "The half a trillion pounds that Lib Dem and Tory Ministers currently expect to be spent on new nuclear power could fund the expansion in renewables which the world really needs. Cheap high quality uranium is running out, just like the cheap accessible oil, while the nuclear waste will be with us for generations.

"Finally, and this is the central flaw in George's arguments, nuclear power is not even carbon-free once you take account of plant construction plus the uranium mining and milling processes. It's way more carbon intensive than renewables, and could easily be worse for the climate than burning gas.

"Scotland's got the renewable capacity out there to meet our own needs almost six times over, and there's no way we should be going back down the nuclear dead end. I'm afraid that George is setting himself up for a fall if he thinks that Scotland - or the green movment - is about to go nuclear," said Harvie.

Dr Monbiot, who also teaches as the Department of Environmental Science, University of East London, sees things differently - and has caused quite a bit of controversy within the green movement, where he is widely respected.

"My thinking in relation to Japan is, well, if this is the worst - just about - that nature can do when it comes to a nuclear power plant and if this is the outcome, then the fears over nuclear power have been exaggerated," Monbiot told National Public Radio (NPR) in the USA this week.

The debate will take place at 5pm, 2 April 2011, at Glasgow Citizens Theatre. More here: http://citz.co.uk/whatson/info/gentleman_george_monbiots_left_hook/


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