Energy review prompts nuclear fears

AN ENERGY review that is widely expected to lead to a new nuclear power station building programme - including a Sizewell C - was launched by the Government yesterday - prompting a warning of “civil disobedience”.

By David Green

AN ENERGY review that is widely expected to lead to a new nuclear power station building programme - including a Sizewell C - was launched by the Government yesterday - prompting a warning of “civil disobedience”.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has ordered the review because of concern over a projected shortfall in energy supply and the need to conform with climate change emissions targets.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said the Government would listen to the views of industry, pressure groups and the public before making decisions on energy policy but a “do nothing” approach was not an option.

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The CBI welcomed the move but urged ministers to implement decisions rapidly once the three-month consultation is complete.

Environmentalists, who suspect Mr Blair has already made up his mind to build more nuclear generators, claimed the technology was not the way forward, arguing that it created more problems than it might solve.

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There was also a claim from Suffolk's leading anti-nuclear campaigner, Charles Barnett, that a new nuclear building programme would lead to widespread civil disobedience. “People just won't wear it,” he said.

“Nuclear power is inherently unsafe, grossly uneconomic, a prime terrorist target and not the answer to climate change.

“To build any more nuclear power stations will divert much needed resources from non-polluting and benign sources of energy - wind, wave, tidal, solar macro power combined with energy efficiency and energy conservation,” he said.

Mr Barnett said the way forward was to reduce demand for energy - firstly by insulating all homes in the UK and developing a transport system that made low demands on fossil fuels.

Friends of the Earth said nuclear power was “dirty, dangerous and expensive”.

Mary Edwards, the group's East Anglian spokeswoman, said: “We can tackle climate change and meet our energy needs by cutting energy waste, harnessing the power of renewables and using fossil fuels more efficiently.

“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, dangerous and expensive experiment of nuclear power.”

John Matthissen , Suffolk Green Party spokesman, said the Government and industry were trying to put forward a “false choice” - nuclear power or climate change.

He added: “Climate change is becoming an emergency and nuclear power is neither going to help in that timescale or make up an electricity shortfall which is also supposed to be imminent. New nuclear stations would take seven to ten years to come on stream.”

Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, who will lead the review, said it would look at energy demand as well as supply.

He pointed out that £740 million worth of energy was wasted in the UK every year by people unnecessarily leaving on lights and heating and domestic appliances on “stand by”.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Norman Baker, said the Government had published a credible White Paper on energy a few years ago and should be implanting it rather than launching a new review.

“The review is simply a retrospective way of justifying the Prime Minister's wish to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, something the earlier White paper did not recommend,” he added.

If the Government does decide that new nuclear power stations should be built, the first is likely to be at Sizewell where a C site has been earmarked.

It would be a twin reactor plant, almost twice the size of Sizewell B, take at least six years to build and would cost in the region of £3 billion .

British Energy, which owns Sizewell B, said: “We welcome the energy review and will play our part in the on-going public debate and consultation.”

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