One of the many decisions the Government will stall until after the General Election is whether or not to extend the life of the UK’s nuclear power stations. One of the biggest, Dungeness B in Kent, is likely to close in the next two years without a decision in the next few months over the direction of UK energy policy. The survival of the nuclear industry is not dependent on its ability to remain financially viable. Far from it: British Energy, which operates half of the UK’s nuclear power plants, has just completed a £5bn government-backed rescue plan and announced losses of £234m in the six months to the end of September 2004. No, the main excuse for an expansion of nuclear power is climate change. As an environmentalist, I want to state my opposition to the nuclear option in advance, rather than apologise afterwards.
The environmental excuse is that nuclear power stations produce less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel-powered stations, making them the best option for filling the gap between the winding down of fossil fuels and the revving up of renewables. This argument was given a boost in Channel 4’s War on Terra series in January, when Marcel Theroux checked out whether nuclear power was the answer to averting environmental catastrophe. His most choice interviewee was environmental thinker James Lovelock, who argued forcefully and passionately that nuclear power, despite its risks and costs, is a better option than carrying on with fossil fuels and the inevitably ensuing climate catastrophe. A few weeks after the programme, a poll on the environment section of Channel 4’s website showed 67 per cent in favour of the question “should we adopt nuclear power as our main source of energy?” and 33 per cent against.
While the programme’s argument was convincing (and almost convinced at least one peace campaigner with whom I”ve spoken since), its approach is akin to accepting detention without trial and an end to jury trials as useful steps in tackling terrorism: it takes a symptom in isolation without addressing the actual problem, and leads to a world that isn”t necessarily a better place in which to live.
There should be no argument that the end of the fossil fuel age is nigh. Nuclear power, however, is not a logical next step. It is still an unsafe and environmentally destructive technology. According to Greenpeace – environmentalists who have, thankfully, maintained their opposition to nuclear power – the production, transport, storage and reprocessing of highly radioactive nuclear materials causes long-term dangers to human health, the environment, and global security. And when the fossil fuels needed to build uranium mines, reactors and waste storage facilities are considered; alongside the resources used in transporting materials within the full nuclear cycle and decommissioning reactors, greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power are far from nil.
Under pressure from the US (oh yes), Tony Blair claims he has -fought long and hard & to make sure that the nuclear option is not closed off”. The possibility of a fresh round of nuclear stations has been kept open at his personal insistence. Even if the Tories formed the next government, their position is unlikely to be different: a December article on the Corporate Watch website recounted how research into renewable energy programmes which promised abundant and cheap energy from wave and tidal power was scrapped by the Conservative government in the eighties, when the projects began to threaten investment in the nuclear sector.
As George Monbiot has pointed out, the government will not spend twice on alternatives to fossil fuels: it will either invest massively in nuclear generation or invest massively in energy-saving and alternative power. The nuclear option is often referred to as a final stage – an option that isn”t taken lightly but becomes inevitable. While this is a limited argument in general it is particularly inappropriate here, for there are many actions that can be taken now to reduce emissions in an effective way. Research from the Rocky Mountain Institute, for example, has shown that seven times as much carbon can be saved through electricity efficiencies as through investing in nuclear power.
At best, the nuclear option for tackling the climate crisis is a red herring. At worst, through the way in which it drains resources, undermines environmental security and illustrates our lack of imagination when it comes to dealing with a crisis, the nuclear option is an absolute tragedy.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’