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Short-termism won't cut it

Nuclear power remains problematic on a number of fronts - not least the military

Trade union leaders' welcome for a new generation of nuclear power stations, beginning with Hinkley Point C, is understandable given the jobs angle for their members.

Hinkley and HS2 aside, the coalition has failed dismally to invest in infrastructure projects to counter employment and inject demand into the economy.

However, nuclear power remains problematic on a number of fronts - not least the military.

Civil nuclear power in Britain is inextricably linked to the production of nuclear weapons even though our country has ratified the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty under which it pledged no modernisation of its arsenal as a prelude to phasing it out.

There is no 100 per cent safe and reliable way to deal with waste from the nuclear industry and, as Fukushima showed, the danger of accidents is ever-present.

At a time when Britain's government is investing heavily in a private operation to generate profits for French and Chinese state-owned enterprises, its German counterpart has turned its back on nuclear and will prioritise renewable energy provision.

This isn't because Angela Merkel's conservative government is ducking the challenge of technological innovation - precisely the opposite.

German business knows that nuclear is an outdated technology with inbuilt and still insurmountable problems.

In contrast, the field of renewables represents a massive global export opportunity for countries that enter the industry on the ground floor, invest extensively, develop reputations for setting up facilities and solving problems and lead the world in producing the hardware adaptable to circumstances in different parts of the world.

Britain does little more than pay lip service to the need for alternative energy-producing mechanisms.

Our geographical location and island character should make possible a plethora of new technologies providing for exploitation of tidal, wave, solar and wind power, but investment in these alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear has been patchy and erratic.

Private companies are unwilling to tie up investment for decades as a result of British capitalism's obsession with short-term profitability, while government distances itself on ideological grounds from state intervention in the economy.

Ministers forecast a doubling of energy prices in the coming years, using this as justification for guaranteeing the Hinkley Point C operators a price for power generated at twice the current level.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey congratulates himself and the government for having a nuclear power station built without money from the taxpayer, but the consortium behind the project is not a charitable organisation.

Its intention is to make profits and this will be underwritten by the overblown inflation-proofed price guarantee agreed.

The suggestion that Davey has outbargained the consortium's negotiators, threatening to walk away from the table, can't be taken seriously.

If our government is not funding the handsome profits that EDF Energy and its Chinese partners expect to make, this simply means that the burden will be borne by domestic consumers - the same people currently subject to frozen pay, degraded pensions and a rocketing cost of living.

Davey refers to a "looming energy crisis," clearly unaware or uninterested in the one that already exists for millions of people who cannot afford the tariffs demanded by the greedy privateers.

Energy generation and supply are too important to leave to a short-termist and avaricious private sector.

Government must accept its responsibility for energy, investing in renewables and funding a massive insulation programme to reduce the level of heating required in private homes.


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