BWTUC nuclear power debate

Nuclear plant
Nadine Houghton, organiser for Battersea & Wandsworth Trade Union Council and supporter of WCA reports on a recent debate on nuclear power, organised by BWTUC’s Red/Green Alliance.

The snow and ice was not enough to stop nearly 80 people who attended the Great Nuclear Power Debate hosted by Battersea and Wandsworth TUC’s Red/Green Alliance on the 11th January.

The issue of whether nuclear power is the way forward in the fight against climate change is clearly a hot topic and speakers from the GMB and PCS led the heated discussions on this issue.

Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary for the PCS was joined by Ben Ayliffe, senior campaigner on energy and climate change for Greenpeace to argue the case against nuclear power.

Perhaps, some of the most significant points to come out of the argument against nuclear power was the need to invest in renewable energy sources as opposed to nuclear power plants. It was argued that this would not only be far safer for workers and communities, but it would create many of the much needed ‘green jobs’ necessary to build the economy and develop a mass programme to produce renewable energy.

Not only this but if the anti climate change movement was to become a force to be reckoned with then it would need the full support of trade unions and workers. Only with the might of these groups leading the movement would it truly become the massive force for change that is needed.

Chris Baugh successfully raised the point that in order to truly cease the destruction of our planet we would need a political movement that did not protect the interests of capitalism, but one that was able to fight for the rights of not only the planet but for ordinary men and women too. Without this, capitalism and the pursuit of profit will always seek whatever means necessary to increase profits – regardless of the effect this has on our planet.

However, Peter Kane, GMB convenor for the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria hammered home the point that nuclear power creates jobs – secure, well paid jobs and, he argued, was safe. Peter said he had been working at Sellafield all of his adult life, as had his friends and none of them had any illness due to working in a nuclear power plant. Peter also made the point that it was only with trade union organisation – as with any workplace – that the safety of workers could truly be put before all else, as it was at Sellafield.

Just down the road from Sellafield, in Teeside,the closure of the Corus steel plant leaves a community reeling from the loss of thousands of jobs and the knock on effect that this will have on the local economy. It is easy to see why Peter’s passionate support of nuclear power is unfailing and why many unions see nuclear power as the best energy option that we have.

Tristram Denton, communications officer for the Nuclear Industry Association stressed that we had to separate our emotions surrounding nuclear weapons when considering the potential benefits for nuclear energy and that in no way was he hear arguing the benefits of nuclear weapons. Tristram outlined the need for nuclear power as part of a programme to compliment renewable energy, that the two issues were not separate, but were one in the same.

The majority of people in the room left believing that nuclear power was not the solution that was needed, but perhaps one of the greatest successes of the meeting was showing that trade unions are and can be the effective vehicle for change that is needed. A group of young people noted at the end that they had never considered the workers in all of this, nor the prospect of trade unions to be leading campaigning bodies in the fight against climate change.

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