National debate on nuclear power (UK 2005-2006)
|This article is part of a series on the
2005-2006 national debate on nuclear
power in the UK
|For more articles on this topic,
see the NuclearSpin website
The possibility of a national debate on nuclear power was first floated by Tony Blair a couple of weeks before the 2005 UK general election. According to the BBC at the time, the Prime Minister "...wanted a national debate on the issue. He would raise the issue when ministers responded to a climate change policy review in June or July..." 
In the event, it was not until November 2005 that the issue received real prominence in the media, after Blair's advisers told The Times that he wanted to build a new generation of nuclear power stations .
In late November 2005, a review of UK energy policy was announced, to be headed by Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks . It was launched on Monday 23rd January , with an accompanying consultation document .
In a joint letter to British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, 40 of Britain’s leading energy and climate scientists have stated that building more nuclear reactors is not the solution to global warming. According to them, nuclear power is “a limited, inflexible, expensive and potentially dangerous energy source which creates unique problems”. They conclude: “We strongly urge the UK government not to decide in favour of a new generation of nuclear power stations, but rather to invest the resources and research effort into alternatives.” Leading scientists attack Blair over nuclear power
On May 16, 2006, Tony Blair stated that he backs the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK. His remarks are bound to provoke huge controversy. Nuclear power stations supply one-fifth of the nation's electricity. 
In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Mr Blair said failure to take such long-term decisions would be a "serious dereliction of our duty to the future of this country".  (See also Blair's pro-nuclear Cabinet)
Responding to the announcement by Blair that replacing the UK's nuclear power stations is "back on the agenda with a vengeance" Mike Weir MP, the SNP shadow energy spokesperson said that it exposed Blair's energy review as a complete sham. 
The Liberal Democrats (UK) have criticised the prime minister for having "made up his mind" to support a new generation of nuclear power stations, even before the publication of the government's energy review. 
- 1 Recent PR activity by the nuclear lobby
- 2 PR firms currently retained by the nuclear industry
- 3 Lobbyists for the nuclear industry
- 4 Prominent supporters and opponents of nuclear energy
- 5 Tony Blair's 2004 comments about US lobbying for nuclear power
- 6 SourceWatch resources
- 7 External links
Recent PR activity by the nuclear lobby
According to journalists Jonathan Leake and Dan Box, "...in the year or so before the general election, the nuclear industry slowly but surely put together a classy public relations act. And it was not just targeting politicians and the media."  Here is a chronology of that public relations build-up:
- October 2004: British Energy (BE) appoints Craig Stevenson, formerly Monsanto's top UK lobbyist, as head of government affairs .
- December 2004: BE gives former energy minister Helen Liddell a short-term contract to provide "strategic advice". Her fee is about £15,000. 
- Early 2005: Jon Phillips, a former member of the BAA PR team who was involved in promoting Heathrow's Terminal 5, is appointed communications director for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) .
- March 15, 2005: Mike Alexander, the then chief executive of British Energy, gives an off-the-record speech titled "UK Nuclear Energy: fuel of the future?" to industrialists and journalists. Alexander is alleged to have mocked concerns about nuclear waste, and derided wind energy.  However, within days he left the company .
- March 23, 2005: Amec hosts an off-the-record breakfast for leading business journalists. The speakers are the government's chief scientist David King, former energy minister Brian Wilson, and Dipesh Shah, chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. 
- May 2005: BNFL press officer Jamie Reed retains the constituency of Copeland, which includes the Sellafield nuclear plant, for Labour. Reed was selected from a shortlist composed exclusively of PR professionals, all but one of whom had connections to the nuclear industry.  Another of the PR men on the shortlist, Stuart Bruce, wrote shortly after the election that: "One of the challenges facing Jamie will be to help push the government into an essential replacement programme for our nuclear power stations. Good luck." 
- August 2005: BNFL funds 'accommodation' costs for Scottish MSPs to visit the reprocessing plant at Sellafield .
- Sept 2005 approx: The Civil Nuclear Industry Scottish CPG and its UK counterpart, the Nuclear Energy APPG, attend a dinner paid for by the nuclear industry .
- January 2006: In response to enquiries by the Sunday Herald, the CPG erases the name of BNFL lobbyist Thomas Docherty from its website   
PR firms currently retained by the nuclear industry
- British Energy - Financial Dynamics 
- British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) - Weber Shandwick, Edelman subsidiary PR21, and financial PR company Finsbury 
- Nirex - Promise and Good Relations . Fleishman-Hillard .
- Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) - Bell Pottinger Public Affairs 
- UKAEA - Grayling Political Strategy 
Lobbyists for the nuclear industry
Prominent supporters and opponents of nuclear energy
- Sir Bernard Ingham
- David King
- John Loughhead
- Dr John Mason
- Brian Wilson
- David Miliband
- Jamie Reed
- Gordon Brown
- Tony Blair
Tony Blair's 2004 comments about US lobbying for nuclear power
In July 2004, The Guardian reported that Tony Blair, in his appearance before the Commons Select Committee on Liaison, had
- "...disclosed that America was pressing Britain to look again at the nuclear option, including a new generation of stations that some claim will be safer and cheaper... He revealed he was being lobbied by the US to look at nuclear power as the best way of cutting carbon emissions." 
Blair's actual comments to the committee were:
- "To be fair to the United States, they raised some of these issues to do with nuclear power. Where they have shifted their ground somewhat is that they used to be saying they did not accept this [climate change] as a problem. They are now saying we do accept it as a problem, but if we accept it as a problem, why is nuclear power ruled off the agenda? Why are we unprepared to look at this solution and that solution? That is where they do have a point."  (Q210)
- British Nuclear Energy Society
- Energy Review (UK 2006)
- Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
- Nuclear Industry Association
- Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE)
- Nuclear power, Politics.co.uk
- Nuclear power - Greenpeace
- Special report: The nuclear industry, The Guardian.
- "Spin of the day" archive on nuclear power.
- Tony Blair's evidence to the Commons Select Committee on Liaison, Commons Hansard, July 6, 2004. Questions about energy policy start from Q193. Blair's comments about the US and nuclear energy are in Q210 (on the following page).
- Audio archive of the Today programme, BBC Radio 4, November 29, 2005. The morning of the day that Tony Blair announced a new review of energy policy.
- Chernobyl: a nuclear danger, The Socialist Worker.
- Say no to nuclear power, Socialist Party
Articles about the nuclear industry and PR
- Chris Grimshaw, "It's official: no dark Machiavellian conspiracy for new nuclear power", Corporate Watch newsletter, issue 21, December 2004.
- "Diary: Labour candidate emerges, and wins", PR Week, May 20, 2005.
- Jonathan Leake and Dan Box, "The nuclear charm offensive", New Statesman, May 23, 2005. Subscription req'd after first page view. Available without restrictions at the Australian Financial Review.
- "Nuclear family", Private Eye via SpinWatch, No. 1146, November 25, 2005. About the Bell Pottinger NDA contract.
- Paul Hutcheon, "Sleaze probe into nuclear lobbying at Holyrood", Sunday Herald, January 22, 2006.
- Patrick Wintour and Paul Brown, "Blair reignites nuclear debate: American lobbying adds to pressure as PM battles to keep controversial energy option on climate change agenda", The Guardian, July 7, 2004.
- Tim Webb, "Analysis: Reborn: nuclear energy prepares for a second chance", Independent on Sunday (UK), December 5, 2004.
- Mark Milner, "British Energy chief in shock exit", The Guardian, March 22, 2005.
- "Blair 'to debate nuclear power'", BBC News online, 25 April, 2005.
- Stuart Bruce, "Electoral aftermath II", middletonpark blog, May 11, 2005.
- Philip Webster, "Britain is ready to go nuclear", The Times, November 21, 2005.
- Oliver King and Matthew Tempest, "Blair says 'facts have changed' on nuclear power", The Guardian, November 22, 2005.
- Matthew Tempest, "Meacher condemns pro-nuclear 'spin'", The Guardian, November 21, 2005.
- Mark Milner, "Britain needs a debate on nuclear energy, say industry leaders", The Guardian, November 21, 2005.
- Greg Hurst, "Brown for nuclear plan", The Times, November 23, 2005.
- "Nuclear power 'not needed' for UK", Press Association, May 9, 2006.
- Stephen Tindale, "Hypocrisy is a bad basis for foreign policy", The Guardian, May 9, 2006.
- "Defra warms to nuclear power", ePolitix.com, May 12, 2006.
- Jeremy Lovell, "New UK environment minister says nuclear an option", Reuters, May 12, 2006.
- Rob Edwards, "Leading scientists attack Blair over nuclear power", Sunday Herald, April 9, 2006.
- Jenny Booth, "Nuclear power is back on agenda: Blair", The Times, May 16, 2005.
- "Blair: nuclear power 'back with a vengeance'", In the News.co.uk May 16, 2006.
- Douglas Fraser, "Nuclear plant decisions on hold for poll", The Herald, May 16, 2006.
- Andrew Grice, "Brown endorses Blair's plans for more nuclear power stations", The Independent May 17, 2006.
- Ian Morgan, "Livingstone fears new generation of nuclear power stations, 24dash.com May 17, 2006.
- Peter Wilson, "Blair turns N-power switch to go", The Australian, May 17, 2006.
- "MP generates atomic power alert for Blair", Glasgow Evening Herald, May 24, 2006.
- Gareth Jones, "Power dilemma 'threat' to future", BBC News online, June 3, 2006.
- Patrick Wintour, "Carbon pricing to encourage new nuclear power stations", The Guardian, June 14, 2006.