Why nuclear "Justification" isn't enough

New build nuclear reactors will escape proper Parliamentary scrutiny. That cannot be right.

The nuclear industry want to build over ten new nuclear reactors in the UK. Each of these reactors will have 2.5 times the radiological inventory of Sizewell B, the biggest reactor in the UK.

Government figures state that a substantial new nuclear re-build will provide 4 per cent of our energy, and so halt only 4 per cent of our CO2 emissions. The estimated cost to taxpayers of decommissioning our current reactors and dealing with our present nuclear waste has mounted from £50bn to £73bn over the last five years.

The actual costs will be over £100bn.

Nuclear "Justification" is a high level assessment about whether the benefits of new nuclear build outweigh the health detriments. Justification is a legal regulatory requirement under EU law - it must be done before reactors can be approved. Once the Justification decision has been taken it will be all but impossible to re-open nuclear policy.

This will not be subject to any Parliamentary scrutiny until after a decision has been made. However, if you don't know the reactor design and can't prove you can dispose of the radioactive waste, how on earth can you know the release?

And if this is so, which it is, how can you expect to be in compliance with the law? Unfortunately this is the position that the Office of Nuclear development at the Department of Energy and Climate Change find themselves.

This means that government is about to take a decision on the "Justification" of more nuclear power when significant "what if" issues that are tied to health impact - such as reactor design and siting, vulnerability to attack, radiation waste, radiation risk, reactor decommissioning - have not been resolved.

Failure to do this leaves the government open to legal challenge and leads to hostility and mistrust of any future energy policy decision.

At this politically sensitive and strategic time for UK energy futures, whether you are for, against, or haven't made your mind up about new nuclear reactors on the UK - this critical decision must be dealt with openly and fairly to get a better result for everyone by generating public trust in the outcome.

Because the Justification of new nuclear power in the UK represents a key issue for trust in government energy policy and the control of nuclear risk, we believe the Government should hold an Independent Inquiry, as allowed for under the regulations governing Justification: The Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 (No. 1769), Regulation 17.

Join us.

Dr Paul Dorfman is Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Energy Policy Research Fellow, facilitates the Nuclear Consultation Group, Member of MOD Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP) Steering Group (MSDPSG), Steering Group Member SAFEGROUNDS (Safety and Environmental Guidance for Remediation of Nuclear and Defence Sites), and served as Secretary to the Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE).

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Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.