Green groups boycott ‘farcical’ nuclear debate

A number of green groups have decided to boycott a government consultation on nuclear power after accusing ministers of a “public relations stitch-up”.

The planned consultation on new nuclear power stations concludes tomorrow with a nationwide debate involving 1,100 members of the public. Representatives across eight cities will vote on the government’s proposals to extend the use of nuclear power in the UK.

However, groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and the Green Alliance, claim the government has unfairly represented the evidence, downgrading arguments against nuclear power and presenting pro-nuclear statements as fact.

Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said: “This is not a genuine consultation about nuclear power. It is deeply flawed and it is clear that the government has essentially made up its mind.

“We are perfectly happy to debate the issue of nuclear power, but we are not prepared to take part in this latest Government farce.

All the groups participated in the consultation process, but claim their evidence has been distorted and have released a list documenting their concerns.

They say the government is “conducting a public relations stitch-up design to deliver a preordained policy on new nuclear power”.

The government insists it is keeping an open mind and will listen to the consultation, but has also released distinctly pro-nuclear statements.

Announcing tomorrow’s event, the Department for Business and Enterprise (BERR), said: “The government has reached the preliminary view that new nuclear would be in the public interest because it believes it has the potential to make an important contribution to the UK’s energy security and to help to reduce the amount of carbon we emit.”

A prior consultation was rejected after the High Court ruled it was “seriously flawed” and “manifestly inadequate and unfair”. Environmentalists are now considering a further appeal, which could severely delay the planning process.

Their document states: “The new consultation is no different from the government’s previous attempt at a nuclear consultation.

“It skirts over the many negative aspects of nuclear power, such as its enormous cost, what to do with all the radioactive waste new build will create, and how little nuclear power will do to help cut carbon emissions and guarantee energy security.”

It continues: “It has become clear that the government has already made up its mind … and that this new consultation is nothing more than an expensive sham.”

John Hutton, business and enterprise secretary insisted the government was keeping an open mind on nuclear energy, and accused the environmental groups of an unwillingness to debate.

Mr Hutton said: “It is possible that the government might change its view. It is not the government that has got a closed view on these issues. I think it is organisations like Greenpeace that have got a closed mind.

“There is only one outcome that Greenpeace and other organisations want from this consultation.”

He added: “The length of time we are putting into the consultation, the effort of trying to involve organisations like Greenpeace and others I think has been unprecedented. The government has made a preliminary view about the role of nuclear energy going forward.”