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Sorry to go on about it but. . .


At risk of sounding like a broken record, nuclear power will not save the planet.

But at least it's now official.

his week's report by the government's Sustainable Development Commission is both very brave and very welcome.

I know first hand how much easier it is to sit on the fence when it comes to nuclear power.

But here we have absolute clarity and transparency.

Commission chairman Jonathan Porritt has conducted a rigorous and sensible examination of this emotive and polarised debate. He has weighed the signifi ant pros and cons and come to a conclusion that even ministers cannot misconstrue.

'The majority view of the Sustainable Development Commission is that there is no justification for bringing forward plans for a new nuclear power programme at this time, and that any such proposal would be incompatible with the government's own sustainable development strategy, ' concludes the report Nuclear power could, the report accepts, generate large quantities of electricity, contribute to stabilising CO2 emissions and add to the diversity of supply.

But only by a small amount.

'Nuclear cannot tackle climate change alone, ' it emphasises. And, it states: 'It is possible to meet our energy needs in a carbon constrained economy without nuclear power.' Having recently taken part in two debates making the case against the urgent need for a new nuclear power programme in the UK, I am very aware that the profession - like the public - has some pretty entrenched views on this issue.

These views are, sadly, mostly the result of the organised and well funded nuclear lobby's persistent assault on the media. Its message has been along the lines of 'build nuclear power stations now or risk not just the lights going out but the actual destruction of society'.

It is to my delight and relief Porritt makes it absolutely clear that this is not the case. Regardless of what you may have read or heard we really do have choices - and the time to make them.

Porritt has taken his commissioners down a brave route and, I hope, really changed the whole debate and the course of the energy review. His report effectively and conclusively rips the heart out of the pro-nuclear lobby's divisive strategy by claiming back the climate change agenda and restoring calm to the hysteria it has created.

This report at last puts the nuclear option back in its rightful place as 'a choice and not an absolute necessity'.

None of the choices are easy.

The nuclear route is not a single quick fix and has some pretty major disadvantages. On the other hand we do have the opportunity - and time - to embrace, as the 2003 Energy White Paper concluded, renewables, energy efficiency and the cleaner and more efficient use of fossil fuels.

Remember that this report does not come from some reactionary or campaigning 'green' organisation. It comes from the Sustainable Development Commission - Tony Blair's own creation to provide him 'onmessage' environmental advice.

It is the government's 'principal advisory body on all matters relating to sustainable development' and, reporting directly to Blair, is charged with putting sustainable development at the centre of government policy.

This either puts the Prime Minister in a very difficult or very easy position and it is difficult to see how he can realistically ignore the easy option provided by Porritt.

However, don't take my word for it. Read the report yourself at www. sd-commission. org. uk.

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

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