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Blair's Decision on U.K. Nuclear Power May Cost Popularity

April 14 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's government today begins considering whether to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, adding to a series of decisions due that may hurt his popularity, polling analysts say.

Eighteen of Britain's 23 nuclear reactors, some dating to the 1960s, will finish their life in service by 2015. They generate a fifth of U.K. electricity.

Surveys indicate voters want renewable forms of energy such as wind, solar and tidal power to generate electricity in the future. Blair, told by utilities that renewable forms alone won't satisfy rising demand, may decide the future of nuclear power by the end of July when Parliament starts its summer recess.

``This falls into a series of decisions that the Blair government is having to make that may cause short-term unpopularity,'' said Rick Nye, a poll analyst at Populus Ltd., which conducts surveys for the Times newspaper. ``The nuclear industry is mistrusted and has mismanaged the safety and waste issues.''

Seventy-eight percent of adults favor renewable energy and conservation to nuclear power, according to a survey of 1,491 people by Ipsos-Mori Ltd. between Oct. 1 and Nov. 6, 2005. About 54 percent say they would accept nuclear power if it mitigates damage to the environment. The survey had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Blair this year is also facing decisions on how to fund pensions, whether to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Eighteen of Britain's 23 nuclear reactors, some dating to the 1960s, will finish their life in service by 2015. They generate a fifth of U.K. electricity.

Surveys indicate voters want renewable forms of energy such as wind, solar and tidal power to generate electricity in the future. Blair, told by utilities that renewable forms alone won't satisfy rising demand, may decide the future of nuclear power by the end of July when Parliament starts its summer recess.

``This falls into a series of decisions that the Blair government is having to make that may cause short-term unpopularity,'' said Rick Nye, a poll analyst at Populus Ltd., which conducts surveys for the Times newspaper. ``The nuclear industry is mistrusted and has mismanaged the safety and waste issues.''

Seventy-eight percent of adults favor renewable energy and conservation to nuclear power, according to a survey of 1,491 people by Ipsos-Mori Ltd. between Oct. 1 and Nov. 6, 2005. About 54 percent say they would accept nuclear power if it mitigates damage to the environment. The survey had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Blair this year is also facing decisions on how to fund pensions, whether to replace the aging Trident nuclear missile force and how to cut welfare benefits. His legislation on education, opposed by 52 lawmakers in his Labour Party, faces another vote in May or June.

Nuclear vs. Renewable

Environmental groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and at least 10 Labour lawmakers oppose extending nuclear power, noting the cost to clean up Britain's existing sites will touch 70 billion pounds ($123 billion). Backing for the industry stagnated after accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and Chernobyl in Russia in 1986.

``People are skeptical about nuclear power,'' said Luke Daxos, a researcher at Ipsos Mori. ``They're prepared to accept the case for more nuclear power stations in certain circumstances. But instinctively they'd prefer to see more emphasis placed on renewable energy.''

For companies mining uranium, building power stations and generating electricity, Britain's decision is a potential bonanza, adding to new plants being ordered in China, India and Finland. The last nuclear plant built in the U.K., Sizewell B on the East Anglian coast, entered service for British Energy Plc in 1996 at a cost to the taxpayer of 2.7 billion pounds.

Lawmakers Opposed

In February, 21 members of Parliament signed a petition saying nuclear power would be ``far too expensive and environmentally damaging.'' Fifty signed a separate measure demanding a vote. The Liberal Democrats, the third-largest party in the House of Commons, opposes nuclear power. The Conservatives, who been supportive of the industry, are reviewing all policies under David Cameron, who was elected party leader in December.

The Department of Trade and Industry, which today closes a consultation with industry and environment groups on the issue, declined to comment. It will make a recommendation in the summer.

Around the globe, nuclear power is being reconsidered as a hedge against rising oil prices and to combat damage to the Earth's climate. Unlike power stations that burn coal, oil or natural gas, nuclear generators produce none of the carbon dioxide blamed for climate change.

U.S. President George W. Bush said in April he wants to speed up licensing nuclear plants. China has said it plans to build 36,000 megawatts of nuclear generation capacity by 2020, the equivalent of 27 new reactors.

Nuclear Power in Europe

In Britain, Europe's third-largest power market, 19.5 percent of electricity came from nuclear generators in 2004, compared with 88 percent in France, 30 percent in Germany, 27.5 percent in Japan and 19.9 percent in the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency. The nuclear share of the market in the U.K. slipped from 22.2 percent in 2003 and will drop to almost zero within two decades unless new plants are built.

Markets already have started to adjust to the prospect of rising nuclear energy demand. Uranium prices have more than quadrupled to $41 a pound from as little as $6.95 a pound in November 2000. Each nuclear plant needs about 1.6 million pounds of uranium to start and another 500,000 pounds a year to operate.

Shares of uranium mining companies have surged. Cameco Corp., the world's biggest uranium producer, has quadrupled to C$42 on the Toronto stock exchange from C$5.96 in February 2003. Its rivals include BHP Billiton Ltd., SXR Uranium Ore Inc., UrAsia Energy Ltd., Paladin Resources Ltd., Redport Ltd., Energy Metals Ltd., Compass Resources NL and Rio Tinto Plc.

Centrica Plc and Scottish & Southern Energy Plc, Britain's first and third-biggest energy suppliers, have said they may invest in new nuclear plants.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Reed V. Landberg in London at  landberg@bloomberg.net.


Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/ap...

APR 14 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2166-blair-s-decision-on-u-k-nuclear-power-may-cost-popularity
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