Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
Author
Comment
View Entire Thread
Re: James Hansen counts the undead

In reply to JMW, on the attitude to nuclear power by eco-warriors (Greenies) and class warriors (Lefties):

In the case of the Greenies it's very straightforward, they're predominantly anti-nuclear regardless of whether they might be identified as being left wing or not.

In the case of Lefties the story is quite a bit more complicated. The British left used to be pro-nuclear back in the 1960s and probably well into the 1970s. Harold Wilson tried to portray Labour as being the party of science and technology back in the 1960s and the modern image this gave Labour may have possibly swung him the 1964 General Election. Wilson's "white heat of the technological revolution" was supposedly based on the ideas of two left wing British science academics, CP Snow and PMS Blackett, and its main feature was a new government department called the Ministry of Technology, also known as "MinTech" which was run by Britain's top leftie Tony Benn. One big MinTech project was the further development of British atomic energy and Benn was responsible for the key bad decisions that were made at the time, such as developing the AGR, and on top of that, having three different AGR designs to spread the work around.

In the early 1980s the Left did a U-turn on nuclear power due I think to two events. The first was that Ronald Reagan became US President and took a much tougher line against the USSR which led to a revival of the CND movement. The British Left jumped on the revived CND bandwagon and adopted the CND-type view of nuclear power where it is seen as being strongly linked to nuclear weapons. The second event was that a hero of the British Left, Arthur Scargill, became president of the National Union of Mineworkers, and adopted a strong anti-nuclear power position, presumably because he saw it as being an impediment to the pursuance of successful coal-mining strikes. He advocated building a series of coal-fired power stations instead of the nuclear stations that the government wanted to build at the time. On top of this, the Left hated Walter Marshall, the head of the CEGB, because he managed to keep the lights on during the 1984-85 miners' strike. Marshall was effectively 'Mr Nuclear Power' in Britain at the time and so their hatred of him was extended to the entire British nuclear power industry.

In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the British Left then jumped on the Green bandwagon and did a U-turn on coal as well. Piers Corbyn, who was a loony left wing activist in the 1970s (championing squatters' rights), and is also the brother of Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, is an unusual Leftie in that he didn't jump on the Green bandwagon. Corbyn has consistently maintained the views of a 1980s leftie, being anti-nuclear and pro-coal. I noticed in watching BBC interviews in the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher's death a few weeks ago, where various lefties railed against her treatment of the miners back in the 1980s, that little mention was made of the Left subsequently embracing Greenery and AGW which is what really did finish the miners off.

By contrast the French left must have maintained a consistent pro-nuclear power attitude over several decades. I would deduce this from the fact that left wing governments or presidents are fairly common in France, and I think it would have been impossible for France to have managed to build up to a figure of 80% electricity generation by nuclear power if the French left was opposed to nuclear power.