Government set to unveil nuclear plans


Government set to unveil nuclear plans
The government is set to unveil plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations today in a move which is likely to spark a fierce debate between policymakers and environmentalists over how to meet Britain's future energy needs.

In a white paper on energy ministers are also expected to call for greater investment in renewable energy sources and press for greater energy efficiency as a means of tackling global warming and securing supplies.

Writing in The Times ahead of the publication of the document, outgoing prime minister Tony Blair warns that Britain will only be able to meet its targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions if it gives "serious consideration" to expanding the country's use of nuclear power.

Nuclear power currently generates around a fifth of the UK's electricity, but the majority of the country's nuclear power stations are approaching the end of their lives and are due to close over the next 15 years or so.

Mr Blair, who warned that Britain could face a situation where it would have to import more than half of its oil by 2020, stressed that nuclear power should be considered as a potential means of protecting the security of energy supplies and cutting the use electricity-generating methods which released greenhouse gas emissions.

"It is right that we consider how nuclear power can help to underpin the security of our energy supply without increasing our reliance on fossil fuels," wrote Mr Blair.

However environmental groups insist that expanding the use of nuclear power is not the answer to tackling climate change.

Green party MEP Caroline Lucas said that building a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain would be a "disaster for world peace and the environment" and claimed that such facilities would be at growing risk of terrorist attacks and nuclear accidents.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has added to the warnings, claiming that building more nuclear power stations would ignore advice given by the government's own advisors.

The Sustainable Development Commission, the independent environmental watchdog established by ministers, warned last year that there was "no justification" for a new programme of nuclear power development which it claimed could undermine energy efficiency drives and involve escalating costs.

Rather than embark upon plans to expand Britain's nuclear industry ministers must now accept that new technology must be adopted and energy efficiency improved in order to meet emissions targets, the FoE stressed.

"Unfortunately energy efficiency initiatives have so far been neglected in favour of hugely expensive proposals for a new nuclear programme; despite the fact government's own advisors have said that cutting emissions from other sources will be more cost effective and quicker," said FoE campaign co-ordinator Roger Higman.

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