TWO GREEN Party members from Oxford are among a small group of leading environmentalists who this week came out in support of nuclear power.

Mark Lynas, the author of the award-winning Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, and Chris Goodall, the activist and prospective Parliamentary candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, told The Independent newspaper this week that they had changed their minds on nuclear power.

Mr Lynas and Mr Goodall joined Stephen Tindale, the former director of Greenpeace, and Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency, in formally announcing a change of position on nuclear energy.

Mr Lynas first announced his ‘conversion’ last summer, but this week’s announcement is significant in that it is the first time that a group of prominent environmentalists has publicly backed the Government’s proposals to build more nuclear power stations.

None of the four was in favour of nuclear power a decade ago, but they have all had a change of heart because of new scientific evidence. And Mr Lynas, from Wolvercote, admitted that switching to the Government’s line was, for environmentalists, “a bit like admitting you are gay to your parents”.

He added: “Good-hearted people getting solar panels on the roof is not enough, and if you rule nuclear power out of the mix, it makes it impossible to close all the coal-fired power stations, like the one at Didcot. Coal-fired power stations emit millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, which is one of the principal causes of global warming.”

Mr Lynas’s views are likely to prove controversial in environmentalist circles.

And the Green Party has even refused to rule out deselecting Mr Goodall as the Parliamentary hopeful for Oxford West and Abingdon over his stance.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, MEP, said: “It is of great concern to me that a candidate should be promoting a policy which is at odds with the party manifesto, and I shall be taking that forward.

“In any party, you have a range of views, but once selected as a Parliamentary candidate you have a particular responsibility.”

The matter would be dealt with by the party’s regional council following discussions with Mr Goodall, she explained.

The party would not comment on any possible punishment, but local members are allowed to consider selecting another candidate.

However, Mr Goodall said he had not yet been contacted by the Green Party regarding the nuclear issue.

He said: “My position as candidate is up to the local party members and is not a matter of central party diktat.”

Craig Simmons, leader of the city council’s Green group, said: “There is a debate to be had about nuclear power and I can understand Chris’s frustration with government policy. Chris is a respected author and writer, and I have certainly not heard anything or seen any emails saying ‘get Chris out’.”