Government adviser floats plan for 10 new nuclear reactors

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An influential group set up by the Government has raised the prospect that 10 new nuclear stations could be built in Britain.

An influential group set up by the Government has raised the prospect that 10 new nuclear stations could be built in Britain.

It has told Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, that the Government should plan ahead for the possibility of a new wave of nuclear reactors being ordered over the next 20 years.

The report, by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), will be seized on by the pro-nuclear lobby, which claims new reactors would help Britain make deep cuts in its emissions of CO 2 from coal-fired power stations.

Its preliminary report to the Government claims building 10 modern nuclear power stations will not make a significant difference to the amount of radioactive waste that will need to be buried. This will strengthen the case of those who believe that the benefits of nuclear power in the fight against climate change far outweigh the problems and costs of disposing of the radioactive waste.

CoRWM was set up by Mrs Beckett last year to draw up detailed plans for dealing with Britain's growing mountain of nuclear and radioactive waste. Its review is expected to lead to proposals for a massive underground waste dump.

The surprise reference to the 10 new reactors is being seen by green campaigners as further evidence that the Government is preparing to start a nuclear plant-building programme for the first time in two decades.

Pete Roche from Greenpeace said: "It's very dangerous for CoRWM to be talking in these terms. Ministers have kept the nuclear option open in case they can tackle the waste problem. The committee is in danger of giving it the justification to order new reactors, when in reality we are still years from a safe solution for the waste we already have."

Gordon MacKerron, the committee's chairman, denied the panel was advocating new stations but said it had to look at what could happen in the future if more were built. He said: "It would be foolish if we did not include the possibility of new build. One scenario might be that we might have more nuclear waste because of new build."

His report also warns that having 10 new stations would double the amount of highly radioactive and toxic spent fuel, which would need to be dumped if, as expected, the Government stops reprocessing nuclear fuel. This would pose a far bigger scientific and environmental problem than storing other less radioactive waste.