The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 10th March 2006
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by Caroline Colebrook
THE SUSTAINABLE Development Commission (SDC), a
Government-appointed advisory, last week produced a report strongly
advising against proposals to build a new generation of nuclear power
Currently nuclear power provides 20 per cent of Britain’s electricity
but that is due to fall to seven per cent by 2020.
Huge rises in the costs of imported oil and gas as stocks of
these natural resources fail to keep up with global demand, coupled
with the global warming problems caused by their use, have led the
Government to consider building a new generation of nuclear power
stations. Prime Minister Tony Blair has made no secret of his support
for this plan.
But his own advisers in the SDC, which is headed by Sir Jonathan
Porritt, have come down very firmly against it on five main grounds:
1) There is
no long-term solution for dealing with nuclear waste, which includes
spent fuel from atomic power stations. This nuclear waste includes
radioactive plutonium, with a half-life of 24,000 years (meaning that
in 24,000 years it will have lost half of its radioactivity; in another
24,000 years it will have lost half of what is left of that and so on).
2) The costs
of building new nuclear power stations are not certain. If costs
escalate, the taxpayer is likely to be left with the bill.
3) Going for
the nuclear option would lock Britain’s energy generation and
distribution planning into one route for the next 50 or so years. This
would make research and development into alternative energy sources
4) There is a
safety risk with nuclear power stations – it may be small but one
accident could have devastating consequences. The SDC says that if
Britain opts for nuclear power, other countries “with lower safety
standards” are likely to follow. There is also a danger of terrorist
attacks on nuclear power stations.
5) A new
nuclear power programme would fail to encourage energy efficiency.
Environmentalists feel this would do nothing about the long-term
problem and would foster a dangerous delusion.
The SDC did not mention the other major objection, that the
production of nuclear energy in Britain will produce weapons-grade
plutonium, making a new generation of nuclear weapons possible. Peace
campaigners say this is the Government’s ulterior motive in opting for
Porritt said: “Our advice to the Government is that there is no
justification for bringing forward plans for a new nuclear programme at
this time, and that any such programme would be incompatible with its
own sustainable development strategy.”
He also said: “Instead of hurtling along to a pre-judged
conclusion (which many fear the Government is intent on doing) we must
look to the evidence.
“There’s little point in denying that nuclear power has its
benefits but, in our view, these are outweighed by serious
“The Government is going to have to stop looking for an easy fix
to our climate change and energy crises – there simply isn’t one.”
The SDC said that doubling Britain nuclear energy output would
reduce carbon emissions by only eight per cent from 1990 levels.
But developing a range of sustainable energy sources, such as wind,
wave, solar and bio-mass – sources which produce no greenhouse gases –
could supply between 68-87 per cent of Britain’s energy needs, if fully
The environmentalist group Friends of the Earth welcomed the
report, saying: “Tony Blair and his government must now seize the
historic opportunity presented by the energy review to set the UK on a
course to becoming a world leader in developing a low-carbon,
But the response from the Government was not promising. Energy
Minister Malcolm Wicks picked up on the fact that the SDC panel was not
Of the 16 commissioners from academic, scientific, business and
campaigning backgrounds, eight voted for a complete rejection of
nuclear energy, another five voted that it was a wrong policy at this
time and two said it should remain an option. Porritt, who chaired the
commission, did not vote.
Wicks said: “As the commission itself finds, this is not a black and
white issue. It does, however agree that it is right we are assessing
the potential contribution of new nuclear.”
The Government is due to produce its own energy review soon, then we
shall see if it has listened to the SDC report.
Blair and God
PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair last
week told chat show host Michael Parkinson that God would be his judge
on the decision to go to war against Iraq in March 2003. And he claimed
that in general his policy decisions were underpinned by his faith.
He did not go quite as far as President Bush, who not long ago claimed
that God had told him to invade Iraq. And he refused to be drawn on
whether he and Bush prayed together before the war.
Dr Johnson once said that patriotism is the last refuge of the
scoundrel but religion has to come a close second. It is the response
of those who have completely run out of rational arguments to try to
defend their indefensible actions, who resort to using something
mystical and incomprehensible, something that cannot be challenged by
Imperialists have always claimed to have God on their side –
often putting Him on several different conflicting sides all at the
same time. They create their own God in their own image but the God who
approves of the wanton murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent
Iraqis for the benefit of the giant US oil barons must be a pretty ugly
specimen. Even Pope John Paul II – a man with a history of close
friendship with western imperialism – did not recognise Blair’s version
of God and condemned the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Involving God in the politics of running the country is a problem
the people of England thought they had sorted out once and for all in
January 1649, when Oliver Cromwell, leader of the parliamentary forces
in the civil war, along with other republicans, authorised the
execution of Charles I, who had claimed to rule by divine right.
This was followed by the Age of Enlightenment, marked by
significant advances in science and philosophy. But it seems that now
irrationality and superstition are trying to make a comeback.
The teaching of science in schools is on the decline, largely due
to a lack of qualified teachers. Fewer and fewer school students are
taking it up at A level. A lack of understanding of the basic
principles leaves young people vulnerable to being taken in by all
kinds of superstition, by cults and extremist and fundamentalist faith
groups of all kinds.
Now we find that in some schools – the semi-privatised academies
that Blair is so fond of – creationism is being taught as equally valid
with Darwin’s theory of evolution. The private sponsor of these schools
insists that Christian beliefs are injected into every subject across
the curriculum. Pupils are taught that homosexuality is a sin – as is
any kind of sex outside marriage.
Trying to impose the cultural values of the bronze age Israelites
onto modern young people may be seen as ridiculous but it damages those
children, leaving them confused and vulnerable.
Blair is trying to use the same sort of mystification and
confusion – like the magically amended dossier and the mysteriously
struck-down Government weapons expert – to confuse his MPs and the
electorate. But we are not gullible schoolchildren who know no better
and we are not having it.
Blair is guilty of the crime of making illegal war against the
innocent people of Iraq – and making our troops into war criminals by
doing so. We don’t need any supernatural power to reach that simple,
logical judgement. Blair must go – and quickly.
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