New nuclear power plants 'essential' to avoid energy shortfall

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It concluded that renewable sources of green energy would be unable to generate enough electricity to meet the expected shortfall resulting from the closure of existing nuclear power plants. Power stations would be unable to supply 20 per cent of peak demand in 10 years' time.

John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Centre and lead author of the study, said that cutting emissions of greenhouse gases from gas and coal-fired power stations was driving the need for fresh sources of energy.

"If the UK is to continue on its path of reducing atmospheric emissions, then it will need probably to maintain some nuclear capability," Dr Loughhead said.

"Renewable sources of energy will play a growing role in the future, but... many of them still have a higher cost base and are going to need continued support both in development and deployment."

Nuclear power generates about 20 per cent of Britain's electricity but many existing power stations are near the end of their lives and there are no plans to replace them following a moratorium on new plants.

The Government is in the midst of an energy review and Tony Blair has signalled that he may approve the building of new nuclear power stations to help to meet Britain's target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

"If we envisage what life will be like without those nuclear power stations, and if you look at the development of the other generating technologies and our current demand growth patterns, the sums don't add up," Dr Loughhead said.

The latest study comes out of a conference on energy organised by the British Geological Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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