Nuclear technology was originally developed, not for electricity generation, but for weapons of mass destruction. As the ever-growing list of nuclear accidents shows, it has not outgrown its violent roots. In the words of Kirkpatrick Sale, who looks to the Luddites for inspiration, “technology is not neutral, composed of tools that can be used for good and evil depending on the user. It comes with an intrinsic character, an inevitable logic, bearing the purposes and the values of the economic system that spawns it”. But it’s not just the high-profile accidents that cause contamination. Frequent smaller accidents and routine releases of radioactive pollution mean that residents near nuclear power stations are constantly exposed to low levels of radiation. There is no safe level of exposure and even very low doses can cause cancer . Radiation is a particular risk to pregnant women and young children and has been linked to cancers and childhood leukaemia.
Originating in top secret military projects, nuclear power still requires expensive military commitments to protect against terrorism. Nuclear power is inherently undemocratic and authoritarian, what Paul Josephson, a self-defined neo-Luddite, calls a “brute-force technology”. Nuclear power scorns local interests. Local economies become subjugated to the interests of the nuclear industry. Workers are brought in to operate the plant, whilst local farms, fisheries and businesses suffer. Nuclear accidents destroy communities: Pripyat near Chernobyl, and Minamisoma near Fukushima are now ghost towns, abandoned due to radioactive contamination. But the destructiveness of nuclear technology goes far beyond the local and contemporary, its destruction is international and intergenerational in scope. There is no proven method for dealing with the highly radioactive waste that nuclear power produces. It remains lethal for thousands of years.
Like the Luddites, the anti-nuclear movement is not anti-technology: we simply require technologies that do not hurt us, our children, our communities or our land. We embrace renewable energy technologies and the wealth of possibilities they offer. We are resisting strong economic and political interests just as the Luddites did. EDF, the leading nuclear company in the UK, has invested £12.4 billion in nuclear sites in the UK . Having made this huge investment, EDF are fighting for nuclear new-build in the UK, no matter what the British people or local communities want. The industry insists that nuclear is economically viable, but with the Flamanville power station currently under construction in France costing £5.2bn , nearly twice the anticipated price, City analysts are advising clients to withdraw investment from new nuclear .
In a massive rebranding exercise, the government has tried to convince us that nuclear power is a clean, safe solution to climate change. But it’s not that simple. The real solution to climate change will come from wind, solar, marine and other renewable energy technologies which compete directly with nuclear power for investment and government funding . Our taxes should go to financing clean, sustainable energy and energy efficiency measures, not to subsidise nuclear power. Many organisations, including Greenpeace, have produced viable proposals for a future without nuclear . We reject the idea that we must choose between nuclear power and climate change. We think we have an opportunity to choose another way that will bring prosperity without soaring levels of consumption, where communities and individuals can take responsibility for their own energy needs so that we can leave a happier, cleaner, safer world for our children to enjoy.
The Stop Nuclear Power Network: campaigning against nuclear power and its expansion and supporting sustainable alternatives. Our vision is of a safe and sustainable low-carbon future based on more modest consumption, energy efficiency and renewable and decentralised energy. Our website has resources and information to help you campaign against nuclear power: http://stopnuclearpoweruk.net/
CND: campaigning for nuclear disarmament and against nuclear power: http://www.cnduk.org/
Boycott EDF: calling for EDF Energy to shut all their British nuclear power stations and stop their plans to build new ones: http://boycottedf.org.uk/
NTAG: opposing the transport of nuclear waste through densely populated areas such as London: http://www.nonucleartrains.org.uk/
There are many local groups campaigning against specific nuclear power stations in their community. Here is a selection: