Friday, July 01, 2011

Leaked post-Fukushima emails reveal UK Government's contempt for democracy

Unlike the immediate response by the governments in Germany and other countries to the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11 - to think about protecting their citizens - that of the UK Government was to think about protecting its plans for nuclear expansion.

Such is the only conclusion possible after reading the leaked e-mails obtained by the Guardian newspaper detailing correspondence between officials in the Department for Energy and Climate Change and employees of EDF, Westinghouse and Areva.

The e-mails, published in full on the newspaper's website, show an astonishing level of collusion between industry and the government.

They raise many questions, foremost of which is: why is it that these powerful officials are so determined to see more nuclear power built in this country that they would rather engage in a PR exercise than practice caution, or switch policies to alternatives that will do the job of keeping the lights on just as effectively without so much risk?

There is no doubt that such alternatives exist. Germany, the most energy-hungry, industrial nation in Europe, is committed to a nuclear-free path in the wake of the disaster, with a fraction of the natural resources for renewable energy that Britain has around its shores.

But the British government has, ever since around 2005, been hand in glove with the nuclear industry.

Immediately after the Fukushima disaster, I was bombarded with e-mails by representatives of the industry assuring me that the disaster was minor, that radiation would be contained easily, that there would not be a meltdown, there was no relation to Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, etc.

As the situation gradually worsened and its true reality came apparent, these e-mails changed their tone, instead trying to reassure me that there would be no comparison between what happened in Japan and what could happen in other nuclear-powered countries in the world.

Well, there are comparisons. And one of them is that before the disaster in Japan the nuclear industry and the government there had been accused of engaging in far too much secrecy and cover-up.

The same is now revealed to be true in this country. What these e-mails show is that we just simply can't trust the government and the nuclear industry.

After the disaster, we even had prominent environmentalists like Mark Lynas and George Monbiot doing the Government's job for them, to tell us how dumb we would be to go off the nuclear path.

When Italy voted overwhelmingly not to restart its nuclear programme, Mark Lynas wrote an article saying how stupid its citizens must be.

The truth is, Italy is an earthquake prone country, and the Fukushima disaster acted as a wake-up call to remind the public of the dangers of nuclear power, which they had forgotten in the years since they had originally abandoned their nuclear programme.

Lynas' article reveals an absolute contempt for democracy. How arrogant of him to imagine that he knows better than 95% of the Italian public!

It is this contempt and condescension towards the public which characterises the British Government's attitude as well.

The collusion revealed by the leaked e-mails reveals that the nuclear industry and the Government are far too close to each other.

It creates a conflict of interest which leads them to care more about the sanctity of their programme than what the British public really thinks.

This has nothing to do with democracy and accountability and everything to do with propaganda and steamrollering policies over our heads.

They do not deserve our trust and confidence on this matter.

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