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Greens walk out of nuclear debate

Mulling more court action

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Green groups have said they are ready to walk out on a public consultation on the future use of nuclear power, describing it as "seriously flawed", just ahead of public meetings arranged to air the debate.

A coalition of six environmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, led calls for the consultation in the first place. The government was eventually compelled to run the consultation when the High Court ruled that its previous efforts were "manifestly inadequate and unfair".

Eight meetings are scheduled to take place tomorrow across the UK, where members of the public are supposed to hear all sides of the nuclear debate. But the green groups say that the government is not including all the arguments.

Specifically, Friends of the Earth accuses the government of omitting discussion of alternatives to nuclear power and glossing over the wider dangers of the technology. It is also unhappy about the speed with which the government is pushing ahead with the consultation - doing in five months what critics argue should take closer to nine months.

Friends of the Earth's Director, Tony Juniper said: "This is not a genuine consultation about nuclear power. It is deeply flawed and it is clear that the Government has essentially made up its mind. We are perfectly happy to debate the issue of nuclear power, but we are not prepared to take part in this latest Government farce."

Ben Ayliffe, a spokesman for the groups, told The Guardian that the coalition was prepared to go back to court to force the government to consult properly: "We have given the government every chance to make the information they give to the public impartial, but they have chosen to ignore it. It has not wanted an open debate. We would rather not go to court, but it is an option that we are considering."

The government said it would be "disappointed" if the green lobby did not join in the consultation it fought so hard to get.

"The government's preliminary view is that nuclear should play a part in providing our homes and businesses with the low-carbon energy we need to make sure the lights stay on and to protect the health of our planet. We want to know whether the public and other organisations share this view," John Hutton, the secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, said in a statement.

But the greens say Gordon brown's own words betray the government's real position. In Prime Minister's questions, Brown said that the decision on the future use of nuclear power had already been taken. He was later forced to qualify his statement after a letter from Greenpeace lawyers.

Tony Juniper concludes: "Nuclear power is not a solution to climate change. A new programme would only generate around four per cent of the UK's energy consumption. It is expensive and dangerous, and will leave a highly toxic legacy for many generations to come. There are lots of non-nuclear alternatives ... the Government should invest in these solutions." ®

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