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New UK environment minister says nuclear an option

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) Britain's new environment minister David Miliband today said nuclear power had to remain an option as the country studied how to meet its international obligations to tackle global warming.

It was Miliband's first public statement on the contentious issue since his appointment in last week' cabinet reshuffle, which saw his predecessor Margaret Beckett, a nuclear power sceptic, promoted to foreign secretary.

''We have to approach this in a way which is open about the costs, recognises the waste issues but also looks at the costs and benefits of all the other options too because I think the truth is we have got to look at all those options if we are to meet this challenge,'' he told BBC radio.

Most scientists now believe global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels for transport and power, and new estimates suggest average temperatures could rise by three degrees Celsius this century, which could trigger floods and famine.

The Kyoto Protocol is the key international agreement on cutting carbon emissions, but it only runs to 2012 and is rejected by the world's biggest polluter the United States.

The government, which in March admitted it would miss its own national goal of cutting emmissions of the main climate change culprit carbon dioxide by 20 per cent by 2010, is in the final stages of a review of its power generation options.

The review, due to be handed to Prime Minister Tony Blair in June with recommendations on the sources of power to take the country through the 21st century, was prompted by the threat of power cuts as ageing nuclear and coal power plants are closed.

Miliband, a former policy adviser to Blair, said climate change would affect all aspects of the way people lived.

''If we are to meet the challenge of climate change, nationally as well as internationally, then no part of British life is going to be untouched whether it be in government, in business or individual life,'' he said.

''I would say the challenge of environmental sustainability is as big a challenge in the 21st century ... as the drive for social justice was in the 20th century,'' he added.

Critics accuse Blair of ordering the review to shroud a decision already taken to back a new generation of nuclear power plants which supply some 20 per cent of the nation's electricity.

They argue that nuclear power is vulnerable to terrorist attack, produces waste that remains deadly for many generations and is far too expensive.

Environmentalists say a combination of lifestyle change, greater energy efficiency and renewables like wind, solar and wave power could bridge the looming energy gap at the same time as being safe and slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

REUTERS PR SSC1538

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