Monday, January 23, 2006

Review to consider new nuclear power stations

Guardian Unlimited Politics Special Reports Review to consider new nuclear power stations

Matt Weaver and agenciesMonday January 23, 2006
A new generation of nuclear power station is to be considered as part of a review of energy policy, the government announced today.
The energy consultation paper comes three years after officials concluded that replacing nuclear plants would be too expensive.
In today's review, the government cited recent rises in energy prices as justification for the renewed interest in nuclear power. "The review will look again at the role of nuclear electricity generation," a statement said.

As part of the process, ministers have also asked the Health and Safety Executive to look at the risks of building new nuclear power stations. The review will examine concerns about fast-tracking new power stations through the planning system.
The nuclear industry is keen to build new plants in the UK without being held up by lengthy planning inquiries.
Today's review said nuclear generation accounted for 19% of UK electricity, but the figure was forecast to fall to 7% by 2020 as outdated existing plants were closed.
It acknowledged that, in 2003, ministers had concluded that replacing those plants was economically "unattractive" but paved for the way for a u-turn, saying: "The review will examine whether recent changes in energy prices have changed that assessment and at the other issues that would be raised by building new nuclear power stations."
Those other issues include the problem of how to deal with nuclear waste.
Ministers see nuclear power as a potential key technology in helping meet the UK's commitments to reducing carbon emissions.
Nuclear plants emit almost no carbon, but the review acknowledged that mining, refining and enriching uranium was "carbon-intensive", as was constructing and decommissioning plants.
It also said future plants would be built and run by the private sector, within regulations set by the government. In interview in today's Guardian, the energty minister Malcolm Wicks insisted the government was "nuclear neutral".
Launching today's review, the trade and industry secretary, Alan Johnson, said: "In a world of heightened concerns about energy security, highlighted by the recent dispute between Russia and Ukraine, we need to look carefully at the risks of this new situation.
"If gas, as well as renewables, were to fill the gap, how comfortable will we be relying on imports for 80% of our supplies?"
Environmental campaigners expressed alarm. "The government must set us on the path to a clean, safe and sustainable future and turn its back for once and for all on the failed, and dangerous and expensive experiment of nuclear power," Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said.
However, the Engineering Employers Federation welcomed the review. "There is no time to lose in putting in place a long-term strategy that will provide a competitive, reliable and secure supply and generate significant reduction in emissions," the director general, Martin Temple, said.
"Failure to do so will mean relying on renewables and energy efficiency to come to our aid, which is unlikely to deliver on any of these fronts."


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