Nuclear power consultation was a sham

The good news today is that a High Court judge has sensibly ruled that the government's recent energy review was a sham, and no basis upon which a policy for new nuclear power stations could be based. This is a great result for green campaigners, but a huge blow for the government, whose tactics have spectacularly back-fired.

The reason for the ruling is that a 2003 Energy White Paper said that nuclear power was an 'unattractive option', and declared that there should be a full consultation before any plans for new nuclear power stations could be made. When the government changed its mind, however, and did a consultation as part of a new energy review, they didn't actually offer any proposals on which people could comment on, instead just a vague list of 'issues'. This didn't constitute a proper 'full consultation', the judge has said, and so now the government will have to go back and do it again properly.

All of which is a great result for Greenpeace, who brought the court case. I'm usually sceptical of the idea of using the courts to challenge political decisions (courts not being democratic, instead just a function of the politically-driven law rather than a means of political expression), but in this case it seems to have paid off. Ken Livingstone's legal challenge of the tube's Public Private Partnerships faired less well.

Of course, this won't stop the government from pushing ahead with its plans, but it might delay things a bit, and allow a further public debate to happen. And if the delay is long enough, it will become more obviously impossible to build the power stations in time to replace the existing ones due to be decommissioned, making the whole argument more transparently invalid.