Nuclear consultation ‘misleading’ – High Court judge

A High Court judge has ruled the Government's public consultation on a new generation of nuclear power plants "inadequate" and "misleading" with regard to nuclear waste, in response to a legal challenge from Greenpeace.

The environmental group took the Government to court in October over the consultation, arguing ministers had failed to clearly set out plans for dealing with nuclear waste.

Judge Jeremy Sullivan said that the consultation was “seriously flawed” and that the process was “manifestly inadequate and unfair” because of lack of sufficient information provided by the Government.

With regard to nuclear waste issues, the judge said the process was “not merely inadequate but also misleading.”

Trade and Industry secretary Alistair Darling accepted the findings and the need for further consultation, but stressed that the decision on new nuclear build cannot be delayed much longer.

“Clearly the best thing to do now is to accept the judge’s verdict, to learn from what went wrong, to put it right and consult properly to make sure we can get the process back on track,” he told the BBC.

A further consultation, which could take around three months, could set back the publication of the Government’s energy policy plans, the Energy White Paper, so far expected mid-March.

But the decision on nuclear could not be held back longer than the end of 2007 due to the urgency of filling the energy gap as Britain’s aging nuclear stations are decommissioned.

“Otherwise we will have power stations coming off line, going out of commission, and we won’t have anything to replace them with,” Alistair Darling said.

Responding to the court’s decision, Sarah North of Greenpeace said: “The Government’s so-called consultation on nuclear power was obviously a sham, and we’re pleased that the judge has agreed with us.

“The Government completely failed to consult adequately and even kept relevant documents to themselves. They’ve now been forced back to the drawing board to conduct a proper and lengthy review.”

The Government said Britain needed new nuclear plants last July, when it published its Energy Review (see related story). The announcement had been met with criticism over Tony Blair’s “predetermined” stance on new nuclear build.

Tony Blair has long argued for a new nuclear power stations as a way of curbing Britain’s dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels and cutting carbon emissions.

Nuclear currently accounts for around 20% of the UK’s electricity but only 3.6% of total energy use. Climate campaigners argue against new nuclear plants which they say would only come online around 2018 and would not sufficiently cut carbon emissions, arguing for decentralised energy systems with more focus on renewables and energy efficiency instead.

Goska Romanowicz

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