November 29, 2005
"It's the Country For Me"

Nuclear power is good - in Finland

The island of Olkiluoto in the Gulf of Bothnia, off the west coast of Finland, is famous for two things. It has a medieval castle, which was once a base for pirates, and it is also home to the first nuclear power station to be built since the disaster at Chernobyl.

The Finns no longer want to rely on gas from neighbouring Russia to heat their 1.5 million saunas, and are laying the foundations for the world's most powerful plant. They have a neat and well-thought-out plan. Local paper makers and chemical manufacturers, which are desperate for a constant stream of electricity, will pick up the 2 billion bill. They will then take all the juice the plant produces when it is finished in four years' time. The nuclear waste will be kept on the island, where there is a 100m-deep repository. The locals are delighted by the idea, and underbid another town for the contract to bury the bright yellow barrels.

Imagine that happening anywhere in the U.S. The mind boggles.

The article continues on to describe the somewhat less favorable situation for nuclear power in the UK.

ADDENDUM: Aha, and this is why it's in the news: Blair opens nuclear debate, to protest

Blair announced a full review of Britain's energy policy, including the option of increasing production of nuclear power to fill the looming energy gap.

Britain currently has 13 nuclear power stations, all but one of which will close before 2023 on current lifespan estimates. Blair is said to favor building a new generation of stations, but many politicians and environmental campaigners oppose the move. Speaking to delegates, Blair said: "Nuclear power is of course a difficult and a challenging issue.

"Like most tough issues what we actually need is an open and democratic debate, not one conducted by protests and demonstrations to stop people having the freedom to express their views."

He said the energy review, headed by the Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, would report by the middle of next year.

The review would "include specifically the issue of whether we facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations," he said.

Though Downing Street insists the prime minister is maintaining an open mind on the issue, press reports have indicated he has all but given the go-ahead to the nuclear plans.

Sources told the Times of London earlier this month Blair believes all the arguments are in favor of nuclear energy and has effectively made his mind up on the issue. He is pushing for planning procedures to be quickened so that construction could be under way by 2010, advisers told the newspaper.

Sweet!

But, you may ask, why would Blair speak of freedom to express views and have an open debate on the issue? Because Greenpeace was having a tantrum in the next room:

Two protesters from Greenpeace scaled the interior walls of the Confederation of British Industry conference center and attached themselves to the ceiling, where they unfurled banners saying "Nuclear -- wrong answer" and threw stickers and paper onto the assembled crowd.

Greenpeace representatives said the protesters would disrupt Blair's address by heckling and throwing missiles unless they were allowed to make a 10-minute speech to delegates beforehand. However organizers rejected the ultimatum and after 48 minutes delay moved the prime minister's speech to a smaller auditorium.

That's right, 'Peas, just keep behaving like spoiled toddlers in a toy store and you're sure to win the respect of the public. Who needs reasoned argument?

Unfortunately, those in Blair's own party look likely to be obstacles as well:

Many Labor backbenchers are vigorously opposed to the nuclear option, and believe Blair has abandoned his lofty promises on the environment in favor of political expediency.
But is it political expediency? Or is it simply the recognition that those ridiculously idealistic carbon emissions targets can only be met in the real world if nuclear power is part of the energy mix?

Posted by T.L. James on November 29, 2005 07:40 PM

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