MPs warn Blair over nuclear review sham

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A cross-party committee of MPs has warned the Prime Minister against using the Government's energy review as a charade to allow a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Tomorrow's publication of the final report by Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister conducting the review, will give the green light to more nuclear power plants by concluding that nuclear power is economically viable. The Wicks report will also propose a five-fold increase in energy generation from wind, solar, tidal and agricultural sources. The 120-page report says nuclear power should have a role because it is economically viable, and does not in itself create carbon emissions which contribute to climate change.

His review concludes that nuclear plants must be financed and operated by the private sector and there will be no subsidy to prop them up. His findings will be welcomed by the Labour-dominated Commons Select Committee on trade and industry which said there should be no attempt to rig the market with billions of pounds in taxpayer subsidies for nuclear energy.

The MPs said it should be for the market to decide whether new nuclear power stations would provide an adequate return for investors.

But the MPs are likely to view assurances by the Government with scepticism. They underlined concerns that the outcome of the Government's Energy Review has been determined before adequate consideration of important evidence. The committee, chaired by Tory MP Peter Luff, said "a full and proper assessment of the projected future generating capacity should have been conducted to inform debate before the Government undertook its review".

Mr Luff said: "The Government's Energy Review risks being seen as little more than a rubber-stamping exercise for a decision the Prime Minister took some time ago."

The MPs raise concerns that the review is being done with little consideration of the need for cross-party involvement. "While we do not deny energy policy requires political as well as economic judgements, the failure to include the main political parties in the process militates against the possibility that they will sign up to the final outcome."

Stephen Hale, a former special adviser to former environment minister Margaret Beckett, said in The Observer: "The depressing truth is that the review was done primarily as a springboard to formally initiate the government's nuclear position."

The committee also said the Government's argument that there was a gap in the energy market which had to be filled by nuclear power was "overstated".

The MPs said if the life of existing nuclear plants could be extended, "the potential energy gap faced by the Government will not be as severe as that which the Energy Review assumes".

The Government will emphasise that nuclear power will be given the go-ahead only as part of a package of energy plans, including greater use of renewable energy and more investment in energy saving devices.