Nuclear consultation ‘flawed’

Government consultation on the need for a new wave of nuclear power stations was designed to provide the answers ministers wanted to hear, a group of academics has concluded.

The consultation, which was forced by a High Court ruling in February last year, ended in October and business and enterprise secretary John Hutton gave the green light to a new generation of nuclear power plants on Thursday.

He told MPs that nuclear power was one of the cheapest options for the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets.

However, a report by the Nuclear Consultation Working Group – an independent research panel of policy and environmental experts – had recommended that a new, more thorough consultation should be launched.

In the 80-page document, the academics said: “We suggest that the key assumptions underpinning the Government’s approach to the 2007 nuclear consultation remain open to critical analysis.

“We are profoundly concerned that these framing assumptions were designed to provide particular and limited answers – and those answers risk locking in UK energy futures to an inflexible and vulnerable pathway that will prove unsustainable.”

Project leader Dr Paul Dorfman, a senior research fellow at the University of Warwick, accused ministers of presenting flawed and biased information to the public, particularly over controversial topics such as nuclear waste.

He told edie: “The [consultation] document said the waste management issue has been resolved. It has not been resolved and certainly not for new waste.”

The academics’ report also raised concerns that key issues such as nuclear fuel supply and manufacture, nuclear proliferation, and radiation risk and health effects had not been the subject of “meaningful” consultation.

Dr Dorfman warned that flawed consultations could breed public mistrust and would leave Government open to legal challenges.

He said: “Proper involvement is a win-win for everybody. If you are foreshortening that process there is no question that you are storing up trouble for the future.”

Greenpeace, which launched the legal challenge that led to last year’s consultation, reiterated its opposition to nuclear power and said its lawyers were examining the Government’s statement.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie