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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The most terrifying thing about Donald Trump's speech? What he didn't say

No politician uses official speeches to put across their most controversial ideas. But Donald Trump's are not hard to find. 

As Donald Trump took the podium on a cold Washington day to deliver his inauguration speech, the world held its breath. Viewers hunched over televisions or internet streaming services watched Trump mouth “thank you” to the camera, no doubt wondering how he could possibly live up to his deranged late-night Twitter persona. In newsrooms across America, reporters unsure when they might next get access to a president who seems to delight in denying them the right to ask questions got ready to parse his words for any clue as to what was to come. Some, deciding they couldn’t bear to watch, studiously busied themselves with other things.

But when the moment came, Trump’s speech was uncharacteristically professional – at least compared to his previous performances. The fractured, repetitive grammar that marks many of his off-the-cuff statements was missing, and so, too, were most of his most controversial policy ideas.

Trump told the crowd that his presidency would “determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come” before expressing his gratefulness to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for their “gracious aid” during the transition. “They have been magnificent," Trump said, before leading applause of thanks from the crowd.

If this opening was innocent enough, however, it all changed in the next breath. The new president moved quickly to the “historic movement”, “the likes of which the world has never seen before”, that elected him President. Following the small-state rhetoric of his campaign, Trump promised to take power from the “establishment” and restore it to the American people. “This moment," he told them, “Is your moment. It belongs to you.”

A good deal of the speech was given over to re-iterating his nationalist positions while also making repeated references to the key issues – “Islamic terrorism” and families – that remain points of commonality within the fractured Republican GOP.

The loss of business to overseas producers was blamed for “destroying our jobs”. “Protection," Trump said, “Will lead to great strength." He promised to end what he called the “American carnage” caused by drugs and crime.

“From this day forward," Trump said, “It’s going to be only America first."

There was plenty in the speech, then, that should worry viewers, particularly if you read Trump’s promises to make America “unstoppable” so it can “win” again in light of his recent tweets about China

But it was the things Trump didn't mention that should worry us most. Trump, we know, doesn’t use official channels to communicate his most troubling ideas. From bizarre television interviews to his upsetting and offensive rallies and, of course, the infamous tweets, the new President is inclined to fling his thoughts into the world as and when he sees fit, not on the occasions when he’s required to address the nation (see, also, his anodyne acceptance speech).

It’s important to remember that Trump’s administration wins when it makes itself seem as innocent as possible. During the speech, I was reminded of my colleague Helen Lewis’ recent thoughts on the “gaslighter-in-chief”, reflecting on Trump’s lying claim that he never mocked a disabled reporter. “Now we can see," she wrote, “A false narrative being built in real time, tweet by tweet."

Saying things that are untrue isn’t the only way of lying – it is also possible to lie by omission.

There has been much discussion as to whether Trump will soften after he becomes president. All the things this speech did not mention were designed to keep us guessing about many of the President’s most controversial promises.

Trump did not mention his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, nor the wall he insists he will erect between America and Mexico (which he maintains the latter will pay for). He maintained a polite coolness towards the former President and avoiding any discussion of alleged cuts to anti-domestic violence programs and abortion regulations. Why? Trump wanted to leave viewers unsure as to whether he actually intends to carry through on his election rhetoric.

To understand what Trump is capable of, therefore, it is best not to look to his speeches on a global stage, but to the promises he makes to his allies. So when the President’s personal website still insists he will build a wall, end catch-and-release, suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” “where adequate screening cannot occur”; when, despite saying he understands only 3 per cent of Planned Parenthood services relate to abortion and that “millions” of women are helped by their cancer screening, he plans to defund Planned Parenthood; when the president says he will remove gun-free zones around schools “on his first day” - believe him.  

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland