Monday, November 28, 2005


22 November 2005
Blair's facing backlash over plans for new power stations
By Oonagh Blackman Political Editor And Jan Disley
TONY Blair is facing a bitter clash with Labour left wingers over plans for new nuclear power plants.

Downing Street yesterday did nothing to end speculation the PM has decided to go ahead to beat a growing energy crisis.

But the move could split a Labour party historically opposed to nuclear power.

It is believed chief government scientist Sir David King has convinced Mr Blair that alternative power sources will not fill the gap created when viable reserves of traditional fuels like gas and coal run out in 10 to 15 years' time.

And Sir David has told ministers that targets to reduce greenhouse gas emission will not be hit without nuclear power.

Yesterday ex-energy minister Michael Meacher blasted the plans and branded Sir David a "spin doctor" as alarm at the prospect of a new generation of nuclear power stations grew among Labour MPs.


Mr Meacher said: "We need nuclear power like a hole in the head.

"I fear David King has really taken on the role of spin doctor by suggesting that there is no other way by which we can meet our carbon reduction targets under the Kyoto protocol.

"That's completely untrue. It certainly can be met if we go for renewables.""

No10 yesterday insisted Mr Blair was still open-minded on the issue.

The PM will launch a wide-ranging review in the next couple of weeks with a final report due next summer. The UK's 12 nuclear power stations currnetly supply 22 per cent of our electricity.

Unless they are replaced with modern plants there will only be three nuclear power stations left by 2020.

With North Sea gas supplies running low and a pipeline from Europe working at half capacity, British industry could be hit by a power crisis.

Business leaders stepped up the political pressure on Mr Blair yesterday and warned of gas shortages this winter and spiralling prices.

CBI boss Sir Digby Jones said: "A decision on the future of nuclear power has been allowed to drift too long.""

Environmental campaigners want alternative sources of power from wind and wave technology to be pursued.

Friends of the Earth branded nuclear power "unnecessary, unsafe and uneconomic".

Director Tony Juniper said: "The Government must invest in cleaner and safer alternatives to nuclear power, not waste yet more money on nuclear white elephants.""

Many see nuclear power as unsafe and Mr Blair faces a backlash if he goes ahead.



THE main points in our favour are less pollution, security of supply and national self-sufficiency.

We don't emit carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide or sulphur dioxide - the greenhouse gases - like oil and coal do. That makes us much more environmentally friendly.

Our electricity prices are more stable unlike, say gas, which has got more and more expensive in recent months.

If you're running a business you can rely on nuclear to provide you with electricity at a predictable, stable cost for years to come.

"If we don't use nuclear there will be a big energy gap in this country and we'll be forced to import gas from aboard, leaving us at the mercy of nations who can increase their prices on a whim.

Imports would also rely on long undersea pipelines which could be damaged, possibly cutting us off.

We need to be self-sufficient as a nation. Otherwise supply countries could charge �500 for electricity one day and �2,000 the next and there would be nothing we could do about it.

On the safety issue, the UK nuclear industry has probably the best record in the world.

In 50 years we've had only one leak of material, so the huge benefits really do outweigh the risks.

NUCLEAR power is not the solution to tackling climate change.

It doesn't offer major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Even if we doubled the nuclear power generated, it would cut UK emissions by less than eight per cent.

Nuclear power is dangerous, dirty and incredibly expensive.

Billions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been spent propping up the industry, and billions more are earmarked for dealing with radioactive waste which will remain highly dangerous for generations.

Power stations are a potential target for a terrorist attack, and increase the risk of nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands.

If we build new nuclear power plants, it will be harder to argue against other states opting for the same, increasing the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation.

The Government should take the lead on developing renewable resources and energy efficiency.

This would help cut our greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain energy security.

And renewables are far safer and more cost-effective.

But will the Prime Minister look to the future, or try to breathe new life into the discredited dinosaur of nuclear power?


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