The UK Government has caved in to the Nuclear lobby, and its latest Energy review provides little or no support for decentralised and off-grid energy.
Instead its has announced support for privately funded nuclear power plants, supported the continuation of centralised power generation, and is to offer incentives to energy companies to help consumers in reducing consumption. It also said it would raise power companies renewables targets but there is nothing about reducing energy consumption by industry.
Among those celebrating will be industry leaders, including the UK chancellor of the exchequer’s brother. Andrew Brown, head of media relations at EDF Energy, which operates 58 atomic reactors in France and has been pressing the British government to renew its fleet of power stations here.
The former broadcast journalist came to EDF from the PR company Weber Shandwick, where he had been director of media strategy. Weber Shandwick has a long history of involvement with the atomic industry.
A former UK chief executive of Shandwick International, Philip Dewhurst, has also been an important figure pushing the pro-nuclear message as corporate affairs director for British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL). More recently, Mr Dewhurst has been acting as chairman of the Nuclear Industries Association (NIA), which clearly states its main objectives as “to influence the climate of public and political opinion in favour of nuclear energy as part of a sustainable balanced energy policy”.
Weber Shandwick, whose senior vice chairman is former Sun editor David Yelland, provides PR advice to BNFL, which controls British Nuclear Group, manager of the key Sellafield site. Other top lobbying and public relations firms involved in the nuclear field include Bell Pottinger, which used to work for BNFL but now advises the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Consultant Financial Dynamics is working for generator British Energy. Smaller firms are also at work. Martin Adeney Associates, run by the former BBC industrial editor of the same name, has been lobbying on behalf of the US engineering company Washington Group, which wants decommissioning contracts and could bid for British Nuclear Group when it is privatised next year.
Former politicians are also active. Brian Wilson, a former energy minister and unofficial pro-nuclear and renewables energy adviser to the prime minister, left parliament in 2005 but soon became a non-executive director of Amec Nuclear and a client of BNFL and British Energy. Other former politicians involved in the atomic industry include Alan Donnelly, a former Labour MEP who runs a PR and lobbying firm called Sovereign Strategy. His company represents the Fluor Corporation, a US construction and engineering firm active in Iraq that wants to win nuclear decommissioning work in Britain.
Mr Donnelly was also active in establishing the Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum, based at the Sovereign offices, whose legislative chair is former minister to the cabinet office – and nuclear enthusiast – Lord Cunningham.
Parts of the trades union movement have also been pushing an atomic industry that provides good jobs but which causes concern in other parts of the labour movement. They have set up a lobbying group, Nuklear21. The GMB has a separate Nuclear Workers Campaign and parts of the TGWU have also been supportive. Prospect has also been one of the most vocal trade union supporters of nuclear.
The French nuclear company Areva has held face-to-face meetings with DTI officials, at which it stressed its ability to build reactors without subsidies. The move is believed to have given crucial reassurance to industry secretary Alistair Darling in his decision to press ahead with nuclear. Guillaume Dureau, a senior vice president of Areva, told the Guardian the discussions were designed to give extra weight and detail to material submitted to the department as part of the government’s review. “We have explained our position to the DTI in several meetings,” said Mr Dureau, whose company has built more than 90 of the world’s 440 atomic plants and which is being advised by PR group Brunswick.
Interest in the nuclear lobbying business has spawned the NuclearSpin website (https://www.nuclearspin.org/index.php/Main_Page). Its editor, Andy Rowell, says that a huge campaign has been running using targeted third parties to sell nuclear to politicians andthe public.
Green Party Principal Speaker Keith Taylor commented: “When asked directly whether they supported plans to build new nuclear power stations, 87% of respondents rejected the nuclear option, in stark contrast to an overwhelming 98% support for greater investment in renewable energy, and 99% support for greater investment in energy-saving measures at home and work. This puts pay to any suggestion the nuclear power is accepted as a necessary evil by the UK.