Energy review backs nuclear role

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The Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks today insisted there was a role for nuclear power in the future as he called for a "balanced" package of energy sources to supply the nation.

Mr Wicks said the Government had climate change, energy efficiency and concerns about where energy would come from in mind when drawing up the long-awaited energy review published today.

"I certainly realise that it (nuclear energy) is controversial and that there are public fears that need to be addressed," he told GMTV.

"But, you know, about 20%, or one fifth, of our electricity... already comes from nuclear reactors. The question is shouldn't we replace that, so that can we keep that source of electricity? It is only about one fifth, and what we need in the future is a balance."

Mr Wicks said the Government would like to see around 20% or one fifth, of energy by 2020 coming from renewable sources such as solar panels, wind farms and tidal energy.

He also signalled that the Government would promote an energy-saving policy in homes, highlighting examples such as the energy wasted by video recorder stand-by buttons.

"We are going to have a crackdown on energy inefficient appliances of different kinds," he said.

He said schools and homes in the future would be built to "far higher" standards of energy efficiency.

Mr Wicks' remarks come as the long-awaited energy review was believed to have concluded that nuclear is economically viable.

The move could clear the way to the building of six new nuclear power stations to replace those being closed.

Changes to the planning process of dealing with applications for new nuclear power stations as well as wind farms are expected to be included in the announcement.

The apparent green light for nuclear energy has prompted strong opposition from environmental groups and campaigners.

The Green Party published the results of a survey of 500 members of the public, which it said "dramatically" highlighted public opposition to a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Almost nine out of 10 people rejected the nuclear option, while 98% backed greater investment in renewable energy and 99% said more should be done to promote energy-saving measures in the home.

"This puts paid to any suggestion that nuclear power is accepted as a necessary evil by the UK," said party spokesman Keith Taylor.

"Despite the Government's ceaseless attempts to frame the debate as one of 'nuclear, or the lights go out', the British public are not convinced."

Most of those polled said they believed the Government had already made up its mind to support nuclear before launching its review earlier this year.

Mr Taylor said the review had been an exercise in "consult and ignore" by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who announced in May his support for nuclear as part of the energy mix.

Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "Polls show that most people oppose nuclear power, even as a last resort. The Prime Minister seems to be the only one interested in having it as a first option."

Mr Tindale said Mr Blair was "fixated" with nuclear power, at the expense of other forms of energy.

Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said: "The Energy Review is a golden opportunity to lead the world in the development of a low-carbon economy.

"We can tackle climate change and meet our energy needs by cutting energy waste, harnessing the power of renewables and using fossil fuels more efficiently.

"We can do this without wasting more money on dirty and dangerous nuclear power. The world is already a dangerous place. Encouraging countries around the world to build nuclear power stations will make it even more so."

Environmental think-tank Green Alliance said it expected Mr Blair's "obsession" with nuclear to derail stronger support for renewables and energy efficiency.

Director Stephen Hale said: "Britain desperately needs a new energy policy. But the depressing truth is that the review was undertaken not to address this but to act as a springboard to alter the Government's nuclear position.

"As long as this Government identifies nuclear power as essential, it will discourage potential investors in other sectors."

But Institute of Directors director-general Miles Templeman said: "Rising energy costs are causing real concern as the business community grows increasingly anxious about further cost increases. We hope to see a strong strategy from the Government in tackling these concerns.

"British bosses are fully committed to a diverse approach to energy as they are strongly supportive of the need for an expansion of both nuclear and renewable sources."

The IoD said two-thirds of its members wanted an expansion of nuclear capacity, with 84% wishing to see more renewable sources of energy.