…and has been scorned by his eco-colleagues for daring to speak up. Some excerpts:
Whenever the word â€œnuclearâ€ comes up at my talks, a shudder runs through the room. Because everyone knows that real environmentalists loathe nuclear power. It is just evil. Full stop.
Except, well, I donâ€™t believe that any more. Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. My tipping point came when I discovered just how much nuclear power has changed since I first set my mind against it. Prescription for the Planet, a new book by the American writer Tom Blees, opened my eyes to fourth-generation â€œfast-breederâ€ reactors, which use fuel much more efficiently than the old-style reactors, produce shorter-lived waste and can also be designed to be â€œwalk-away safeâ€.
Best of all, these new reactors â€“ prototypes of which have already been tested â€“ can produce power by burning up existing stocks of nuclear waste. As Blees puts it: â€œThus we have a prodigious supply of free fuel that is actually even better than free, for it is material that we are quite desperate to get rid of.â€ Who could object to that?
Just about everyone on the eco-scene, it turned out. I began to receive e-mails from friends and colleagues warning me off the topic. Did I really want to risk my entire reputation by alienating the green movement? The backlash to my first magazine article on the subject prompted my inbox to collapse, the blogs to drip with venom, the dirty looks to multiply.
A former Greenpeace campaigner posted on my website that I needed to show â€œa bit of humilityâ€ and â€œless arroganceâ€. On Greenpeaceâ€™s blog my views were mocked as â€œwishful thinking of the dayâ€. On Radio 4â€™s Today programme, Green party leader Caroline Lucas accused me of having â€œlost the plotâ€. When I argued back, she accused me of â€œjust being sillyâ€. I was a traitor.
This was a moment I had been dreading for nearly three years, ever since I first suspected that much of what I had been brought up to believe about nuclear power â€“ that it is, without exception, dirty, dangerous and unnecessary â€“ was untrue. Science has moved on. The old figures just donâ€™t stack up any more.