Nuclear scheme 'hopelessly optimistic'

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The Independent Online
A NEW nuclear power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk would be uncompetitive with alternative investments in power generation, according to the independent energy consultancy, Oxera. It says ministers should reject proposals for the plant, writes Mary Fagan.

In a damning submission to the Government's nuclear review, Oxera says Nuclear Electric's calculations on the viability of Sizewell C are 'hopelessly optimistic'.

It adds that the environmental arguments in favour of nuclear power are far from established and that, in the short term, reductions in emissions from coal-fired and gas-fired stations could be achieved more cheaply by managing demand for electricity.

Oxera deals a further blow by calling for a break-up of Nuclear Electric, which generates 25 per cent of the electricity in England and Wales. It suggests giving at least one large modern power station to Scottish Nuclear, and creating a separate company for the Sizewell B pressurised water reactor, now nearing completion.

The industry would like to be privatised. However, Dieter Helm, author of the report, argues that decommissioning risks would command a high premium that would deter investors.

He favours maintaining a nuclear option for long-term environmental reasons but says privatisation could spell the end for the industry. He believes that if Nuclear Electric, Scottish Nuclear and British Nuclear Fuels were privatised, they would choose to invest in gas for new power stations unless the Government subsidised new nuclear plants.