Monday, January 28, 2008

Hugh Montefiore: One of the World's Great Minds

Hugh Montefiore was an Anglican Bishop in the United Kingdom. Outspoken and remarkably radical on theological questions and environmental issues, he was elevated to Bishop over the objections of the Queen. He served on the Friends of the Earth's board for twenty years and as President of the board for six of them. Not long before he died, he changed his mind about nuclear energy and published an article in the Tablet. The Tablet is a religious journal and probably the article would not have attracted much attention, but the Friends of the Earth executives forced him off the board, so the incident gained some notoriety.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Feature Article, 23 October 2004
Why the planet needs nuclear energy

"As a first step towards this goal, our Government has set itself the target of 10 per cent of electricity from "renewables" by 2010, . . ."

"This needs to be rigorously followed up if the 60 per cent reduction of global warming gases is to be achieved in time. So our Government has further set itself the 'aspiration' of 20 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020. Yet there seems to be little idea how this second target can be achieved."

"This is why nuclear energy is the most viable alternative, but the problem is that it takes several years between a decision to build a nuclear reactor and its commercial operation. If we are to have more nuclear energy soon after 2010 we must plan now. The Government has said that it is keeping open the nuclear option, but the question remains: why aren't our nuclear reactors being replaced as they become obsolete? Nuclear energy, at present supplying 20 per cent of our electricity, provides a reliable, safe, cheap, almost limitless form of pollution-free energy."

"The real reason why the Government has not taken up the nuclear option is because it lacks public acceptance, due to scare stories in the media and the stonewalling opposition of powerful environmental organisations. Most, if not all, of the objections do not stand up to objective assessment. The accidents at Three Mile Island in the United States and at Chernobyl in the Ukraine are usually cited as objections, without much consideration of what happened and what the results were. At Three Mile Island the additional radiation in the surrounding district was less than would be received in one day from natural sources, and no adverse medical effects have been proved."

"The advantages far outweigh any objections, and I can see no practical way of meeting the world's needs without nuclear energy."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, explained the firing this way: "To have us saying one thing and a member of the board of trustees saying the opposite is clearly unworkable in practice. We can't have the organisation saying two things at once."[The Independent (London), Oct 22, 2004 by Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor]

He's right, of course. Party discipline comes first.

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