Until about six years ago, I was opposed to the development of new nuclear power generating capacity in Britain. And then I realised that my opposition was akin to the thinking of King Canute. Ironically, it was consideration of how to dispose of radioactive waste that led me to change my mind. We still have no firm proposals to dispose of the waste, but the study of the issue opened my eyes to the inevitable.
I was Chairman of the National Assembly's 'Environment Planning and Countryside Committee' at the time, and we were in discussion with the body established by the Westminster Government to examine the issue. The eventual conclusion was deep burial in a location where the locals would have been sufficiently 'compensated' to accept it. It was thought that it may take up to 40 years to find such a location, and that in the meantime, the waste would be stored temporarily above ground. Seemed to me that this was no answer at all. But during consideration of the issue, I learned a bit about the 'energy gap' that makes the lead story in today's Telegraph. As well as changing my attitude to nuclear power, it led me to support the construction of the LNG facilities at Milford Haven (in my constituency) and the associated pipeline.
What we are faced with (and comparatively soon) are power cuts. This has not happened since early 70s, when we were subject to the three-day week. For at least a decade, we have seen procrastination by Government on an epically irresponsible scale. Instead of tackling the contentious issue of nuclear power, or investing big in tidal and carbon capture research, the Labour Government has faffed around with onshore wind power, pretending to 'be doing something'. Regrettably, we now need real urgency (which brings with it an inevitable temptation to cut corners), and investment in keeping existing power stations operating longer than they should be. Because of our growing dependence on gas, we need to make huge investment in storage capacity, to try to limit our vulnerability to foreign powers which may see an apportunity to apply political pressure. Yet another poisoned baton to be handed over to the next government.