It is the first time the green lobby has decided to embrace the technology after years of opposition. Campaigners have traditionally been against nuclear power because of the fear of proliferation of weapons and the problem of disposing of waste.
However with Britain facing a major energy crisis in the next few years - as coal-fired power stations and old nuclear power stations close down - and with the UK Government committed to cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, many in the environmental movement are changing their minds. They argue that while nuclear power still has problems, climate change is a greater threat and that nuclear is a better option for keeping the lights on than building new coal-fired power stations.
The four leading environmentalists who have come out in favour of nuclear power are Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace; Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency; Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society’s science book of the year, and Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate. Mr Tindale, who described his turn-around as a “religious conversion”, said many more in the environment movement think “nuclear power is not ideal but it’s better than climate change”.
Around 10 power stations could be built in the UK in the next 30 years. The Government is currently consulting on sites that might be suitable for new nuclear stations and companies have expressed interest in starting to build in 2013, with the first plants coming on stream in 2018. However environmental groups remained adamant that nuclear power can’t solve the problem of climate change.
Greenpeace argue that even if new nuclear stations are built it will not stop countries like China and India burning huge amounts of coal and the only way to reduce the threat of climate change is to improve efficiency and revolutionise energy generation with cheap and green renewables. A spokesman for Greenpeace said: “Imagine if the billions wasted on the nuclear industry had been spent instead on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Then we’d really be matching our big problems with big solutions.”
(read more at icecap.us)