It’s a subject Bridgwater Labour is reluctant to talk about – because it’s so divisive. But should any big subject, affecting the lives of so many, be left off the table entirely?
The subject is Hinkley Point C.
It is not hard to see how this elephant in the room could divide opinion. On the one hand you have , on the doorstep, the largest infrastructure project in the UK, a massive driver of jobs. On the other – it’s the nuclear industry; and, for some, that is enough on its own to be anti.
The public, of course, are not stupid. In 1956, when Britain’s first nuclear power station fired up at Calder Hall in Windscale, heating homes was just an after thought. The real purpose, as we now know, was to produce weapons grade plutonium. 61 years later, the British public did not forget. Subsequent spillages, leukemia cases, and emissions, have done nothing to allay fears. Changing the name from Windscale to Sellafield too, was just PR at its most unhelpful.
So, trying to tell people that everything in the nuclear stable is just fine and dandy does not work. What does appeal in the long run are facts. When James Lovelock of Gaia Theory fame suggests that nuclear has a role in reducing carbon emissions, we have to listen. When statisticians point out that more people are killed on the roads in one year in England than have ever lost their lives from the generation of nuclear power, we don’t quite want to believe it. It might be true, but the nuclear issue is one that we react to with our guts not our minds.
Here in UK, and specifically in Somerset and the local region, we are blessed with an energy mix – there is wind, the potential for wave power, and even possibility of fracking. What is not in doubt is that with electric vehicles around the corner, and our electronic energy-dependent world increasing our needs, we are going to have to find solutions.
Actions and attitudes differ.
Following Fukushima in March 2011, Germany decided there and then to close all their nuclear reactors by 2022. Great. Except that it has so far meant that in the intervening period before total shutdown, Germany is mining highly polluting brown lignite coal, pumping even more carbon into the atmosphere. Meantime, despite the fact that a Danish manufacturer of wind turbines, Dong Energy, is ready to install off-shore wind farms at no cost to the German exchequer, the problem is the grid cannot cope with it.
So, let’s admit that it’s all a lot more complicated than we would like to believe and, what’s more, we are all guilty in one way or another every time we turn on the bedroom light. All power generation comes with consequences. It is not a Labour problem alone; but one for all society and societies. Each nation will come down on a different balance. In the UK, with our general pragmatism in most matters, I feel it might come down to a mix. That wouldn’t be a fudge. It would be a genuine spreading of risk.
Neither ‘For’ nor ‘Against’
But we need not feel powerless either. The area in which local Labour has a contribution to make is not in the field of ‘for’ or ‘against’ but in how well the job will be done, what ongoing effects the implementation of Hinkley Point will have on local infrastructure and, ultimately, whether the major company involved, EDF, is doing enough to compensate people and bring quality jobs. Fine statements have been made about EDFs fund but how easy is it to get backing in practice for local schemes, community halls, sports facilities, medical or other. This work at least may be pursued now and benefit all constituents of Bridgwater and West Somerset if held to account.
New Member of the Labour Party