Nuclear power overtakes coal

ENERGY: Briefing
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The Independent Online
For the first time, nuclear power has overtaken coal as the number one power source for Britain's electricity. Latest statistics from the Government show that in the second quarter of this year the UK's nuclear plants generated 36 per cent of the nation's power, while coal-fired stations were responsible for 33 per cent. Gas was close behind, with 29 per cent.

The figures are another grim milestone in the rapid decline of the coal industry. As recently as five years ago, coal generated more than 60 per cent of UK electricity, and before then, the proportion was much higher still.

The once mighty industry's prospects are worsening with a continuing flow of applications by energy companies to build new power stations fuelled by North Sea gas. Last month the nation's biggest coal mining company, RJB, announced the closure of the Asfordby ``super pit'' in Leicestershire, blaming geological problems. Some industry commentators say RJB may have to shut five of its 17 working deep mines when long-term coal contracts with the electricity generating companies come up for renewal in April next year.