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Blair dealt nuclear power blow by parliament body

By Staff
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LONDON, Apr 16: A British parliamentary committee today rejected any government dash for nuclear power to meet Britain's looming energy needs, delivering an apparent blow to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair is widely believed to favour replacing the country's ageing nuclear plants with new ones, but the all-party environment audit committee's report was the second time a leading body has opposed a new generation of nuclear stations.

The report, entitled ''Keeping the lights on'', said the answer lay in building many more gas-powered electricity plants and boosting production from sources of renewable energy like wind and waves.

''Over the next 10 years, nuclear power cannot contribute either to the need for more generating capacity or to carbon reductions as it simply could not be built in time,'' the report said.

''Nuclear power raises a variety of issues which would need to be satisfactorily resolved before any decision to go ahead is taken.'' Published only 10 days before the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the report raised issues such as safety, terrorism, nuclear proliferation risks, long-term waste disposal, public acceptability and the availability of uranium.

GOVERNMENT ENERGY REVIEW

Blair's Labour government, which has acknowledged it is likely to miss its own goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2010, is half way through a six-month review of Britain's future energy needs and how to meet them.

Bound by pledges to slash emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, it must decide the shape of the country's electricity supply network for coming decades as demand grows and North Sea oil and gas run out.

Nuclear and coal power plants supply about 60 percent of Britain's electricity.

Public opinion has swung gradually back in favour of nuclear power, but only when taken as an option against global warming.

The Group of Eight leading industrialised nations -- Britain, the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Russia -- are widely expected to endorse nuclear power at a Moscow summit in July.

''If we are going to have a sustainable, low-carbon society then we have to have low-carbon (supporting) citizens,'' said Philip Sellwood, head of the Energy Saving Trust, a body funded by both government and industry that promotes energy efficiency.

''Now there is a real chance to give power to the people,'' Sellwood told Reuters in an interview.

A new Energy Saving Trust survey shows Britons worry more about energy bills than personal health or debts.

REUTERS

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