Letter: Nuclear Future

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The Independent Online
Sir: In setting legally binding emissions targets, the Kyoto Protocol achieved what could be described as "mission impossible". Reconciling the longstanding differences between the US, the EU and Japan is nothing compared with the challenge ahead as governments wrestle with the question of how to deliver the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The nuclear industry can provide part of the answer. In 1996 UK nuclear power stations saved the emission of around 70 million tonnes of CO2 or the equivalent of about one third of the emissions from Britain's road vehicles. Nuclear energy deserves support and encouragement in mitigating climate change.

Improvements in nuclear productivity since 1990 - together with the switch from coal to gas - have greatly assisted in reducing the electricity sector's carbon dioxide emissions. This has enabled the UK to be among the handful of countries on target to achieve their voluntary Rio commitment.

In Europe, nuclear energy accounts for approximately one third of the electricity demand, saving the emission of 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - equivalent to removing all of Europe's private cars from the roads.

Further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will require considerable effort and possibly far-reaching changes. In the energy sector that means the promotion of energy efficiency through domestic savings and support and encouragement for nuclear power and renewables.

John Robb


British Energy

London SW1