Andrew courts nuclear meltdown at the Palace

The Observer, Sunday 11 January 2009

What is Prince Andrew's new year's resolution? Not, it seems, to be any less controversial than he was in 2008. This column has learnt of a plan to hold a gala lunch on 5 February at Buckingham Palace for heavy hitters in the nuclear industry, which is, according to critics, a startlingly fraught arena for a member of the royal family to enter.

The lunch is to be hosted by the prince as the UK 's special representative for international trade and investment, the idea of the job being that he can use his royal clout to promote Britain abroad, although providing a publicity boost for nuclear energy within the UK is a departure.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is writing to him. Kate Hudson, chair of CND, says: "It's outrageous that Prince Andrew and the Palace are being used to promote nuclear power. This has always been a contentious political issue and is likely to become more as the government's plans move forward. When this is an issue that divides MPs and the country, it is thoroughly wrong for it to appear that the royal family supports nuclear power. This event should be cancelled."

Further criticism comes from other anti-nuclear campaigners contacted by this column last week. Jim Duffy of the Stop Hinkley group says he is "furious", while Peter Roche of No 2 Nuclear Power points out that several mainstream political parties (the Lib Dems and the SNP, for example) are opposed to any expansion of nuclear power and that the royals should "remain aloof".

So far, there's no word from Prince Charles about the lunch, but his recently appointed deputy private secretary may not be best pleased. Benet Northcote joined the royal household from Greenpeace, where he was a doughty campaigner against nuclear energy.


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