Monday, October 24, 2005

Industry seeks drive for atomic generators

Natural resources, oil news, mining news, Times Online

By Angela Jameson, Industrial Correspondent

BRITAIN’S main manufacturers’ group is urging the Government to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, as part of a balanced strategy for acceptable long-term low-cost energy in the UK.
Research conducted for the EEF has found that when gas prices are high — as they are now — nuclear power could be the cheapest way of providing energy for the country, and is less than half the cost of offshore wind farms.

The manufacturers want the Government to:

relax planning and licensing legislation for nuclear plants;
make a decision on the disposal of radioactive waste; and
replace the current renewables obligation with a zero carbon obligation in 2015
The EEF’s analysis that new nuclear plant can be built at a cost of just £32 per megawatt hour — compared with offshore wind farms at £71 per megawatt hour — when both gas prices and the penalty for carbon emissions are high, shows how attractive nuclear power, which emits no carbon, is becoming.

Nuclear power provides a fifth of the UK’s electricity. However, all but one of Britain’s 12 nuclear power stations will be closed by 2023.

Tony Blair has called for an “open-minded” debate over the future of nuclear power in the UK and has said that a decision will be taken by next year.

However, the EEF has said that there is no time to lose because its members have been hit by a 50 to 80 per cent jump in wholesale power prices this summer and may have their supplies cut, to protect domestic users, over the next two winters.

Martin Temple, the director-general of the EEF, said: “The Government must take a clear lead on this issue to create a secure environment which will encourage investment in future energy sources.”

Mr Temple said that failing to put in place such a strategy would mean relying on new technology and energy efficiency, both of which had shown little sign of providing solutions to the problems of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and providing low-cost secure supplies.

The EEF’s report was not a call for subsidy of the nuclear industry, but a plea for government to encourage responsible private investment in the sector, Mr Temple said. “In current circumstances, the market will provide little other than new gas plants,” he said.

In a damning assessment of government energy policy, the EEF finds that the Government’s plan to rely on energy efficiency to cut carbon emissions has backfired, with households and the transport sector now using more energy than they used to. It also says that it is unrealistic to expect wind farms to provide a fifth of our future energy needs.

A Department of Trade and Industry spokeswoman said: “A review of energy policy is under way. There is no silver bullet to meeting our objectives. We will be examining the options for civil nuclear power, and whether and to what extent we should replace the exisiting generating stations.”


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