Report seeks more nuclear plants to help cut pollution
BRITAIN must urgently begin building a new generation of nuclear power plants if it is to meet its pollution-cutting targets, a leaked government report has warned.
A briefing document drawn up for ministers at the new Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry signalled that policies to slash carbon emissions were likely to fail unless further nuclear plants were constructed.
The report emerged as a leading nuclear scientist predicted that less than half the wind farms planned for Scotland would be built because of a return to nuclear energy.
Tony Blair has made no secret of his support for using nuclear generation as a way to slash carbon emissions and the new Secretary of State for the Energy department, Alan Johnson, is also open-minded about nuclear power.
Joan MacNaughton, the director-general of energy policy at the new Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry, advised in her briefing note to ministers that "it is generally easier to push ahead on controversial issues early in a new parliament".
The document said there would be an increased risk of an electricity supply shortage after 2008, when some of Britain’s ageing nuclear plants are due to close. To avoid a steep decline in nuclear output, a decision was needed quickly as it took a decade for stations to become operational, it said.
The memo came to light as Dr John Large, who has advised world governments on nuclear strategies, predicted that ministers would unveil plans for six new pressurised water reactors in the next few months. Two of the new power stations would be in Scotland, probably at existing facilities such as Hunterston and Chapel Cross.
He warned the move towards nuclear generation would work against the renewables sector and could force Scotland to drop its target of receiving 40 per cent of energy from renewables, double that of the rest of the UK.
"The case for renewable energy - particularly wind energy - has been overstated. It has a part to play but nothing like what has been pitched," said Dr Large.
He added that the grid operators did not like renewables because of its "inconsistency of supply".
"I don’t believe half the wind farms planned for Scotland will be built - in fact I expect less than half will be. There are too many problems offshore and on land for them to overcome."
He added that he had not seen the nuclear industry as focused as it was now. The Nuclear Industry Association has been lobbying ministers on the need for ten new stations and arguing that a large-scale programme would be the most economical.
Dr Large also believed that nuclear waste would be stored in Cumbria near Sellafield, rather than Scotland.
However, moves towards building costly nuclear stations are set to be met with resistance from Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary. She has her reservations about nuclear energy, not least the problem of storing nuclear waste, and favours a move to less risky, renewable energy sources to cut emissions.
The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, would also balk at having to commit billions in government funding for the industry. While a private consortium could pay the 3 billion for each station to be built, the government would have to commit to buying an agreed quantity of power at a fixed price over the lifetime of the stations.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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