Public consultation on government's nuclear power plans condemned as 'inadequate' by High Court judge .

UK government plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations have suffered a setback after a public consultation on nuclear power was condemned by a High Court judge as ’inadequate’ and ’misleading’. 

The ruling marks a success for environmental group Greenpeace, who were arguing that a consultation carried out last year by the government, before its publication of a report backing new nuclear build  (The Energy Challenge), was legally flawed.

Mr Justice Sullivan agreed that the 2006 consultation process had been ’clearly and radically wrong.’ He said the consultation document contained no information of any substance on key issues, such as the disposal of nuclear waste and building costs.

In response, a statement from the Department of trade and industry (DTI) said: ’This judgement is about the process of consultation, not the principle of nuclear power . we continue to believe nuclear power has a role to play in cutting emissions and helping to give this country the energy security it needs.’

While environmental groups and renewable energy researchers were pleased with the decision, other scientists reflected gloomily on future prospects for nuclear power. ’It is bad enough that the issue of dealing with legacy radioactive waste has prevented the government from embarking on a new build programme, but now it is likely that a new Energy review consultation will be needed, which will further delay matters by at least another 12-18 months,’ said  Tajinder Panesor, Institute of Physics policy manager.

Alister Scott, spokesman for the University of Sussex Energy Group, said the ruling showed that public legitimacy was a key consideration in decisions around science and technology. ’A technology like nuclear power brings with it significant social implications that will last for thousands of years. You have to carry the public with you when making these kinds of decisions,’ he said.

An energy white paper fleshing out the government’s nuclear proposals was expected in March; it’s not yet clear whether that will be delayed.

Richard Van Noorden