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Top UK Advisers Say 'No' to Nuclear Power
Published on Monday, March 6, 2006 by
Top UK Advisers Say 'No' to Nuclear Power

Nuclear power is not the answer to tackling climate change or problems of energy supply, the government's independent advisors have warned.

Sustainable development commission finds nuclear is not the option
The sustainable development commission (SDC) has today published its response to the government's energy review, and warns the risks of nuclear power are still too great.

It argues that Britain's needs can be met by developing new low-carbon technologies and an "aggressive" expansion of energy efficiency and renewables.

"There’s little point in denying that nuclear power has benefits, but in our view, these are outweighed by serious disadvantages," said chairman Jonathon Porritt.

"The government is going to have to stop looking for an easy fix to our climate change and energy crises – there simply isn’t one."

Ministers have refused to pre-judge the outcome of the review, but have similarly refused to rule out replacing Britain's ageing nuclear power stations – which currently provide about one fifth of the country's energy - with new plants in the future.

Tony Blair has called for a "serious debate" on the issue, but this has been widely seen as tacit support for building new stations, in tandem with the increased use of renewables such as solar and wind power.

Today's report has therefore been welcomed by environmental campaigners, particular as it comes on the day a new poll shows the majority of people are against nuclear power.

An ICM poll for BBC Scotland finds 51 per cent of Scots are opposed to new plants, compared to just 33 per cent who are in favour. However, this support increases to 54 per cent if such a move stopped Britain's reliance on overseas energy supplies.

Asked what would be their preferred source of energy, 52 per cent said renewables, compared to 21 per cent for gas fired power stations, 15 per cent for nuclear power and six per cent for coal fired power.

It reveals there are still major concerns about what to do with nuclear waste, and today's SDC report confirms this as one of nuclear's main problems, saying it is currently "impossible" to guarantee safety over the long-term disposal of waste.

In addition, it notes the uncertainty surrounding costs of building new nuclear power stations and says such a move could send out the wrong message to consumers that new technology, and not a change in behaviour, was all that was required.

The commission also expresses concern that an increase in the use of nuclear power in Britain would make it harder for the government to deny other countries the same technology - which could lead to higher risks of accidents.

Shadow trade and industry secretary Alan Duncan called on ministers to take these concerns seriously, but added: "This report puts a spanner in the works for the government, who everybody believes has already made up its mind in favour of nuclear."

© Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006


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