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Blair accused of brushing aside nuclear energy advice

TONY Blair has been accused by his own environmental watchdog of ignoring its recommendations in his rush to authorise a new wave of nuclear power plants.

The Environment Agency's attack on the Prime Minister also cast doubt on the financial impact of investing billions of pounds in a new generation of nuclear reactors.

Officials at the agency, the lead government body for environmental protection in England, fear the Prime Minister's energy review is biased towards the nuclear option.

The energy review is intended to reduce the country's use of fossil fuels, which produce the carbon dioxide scientists say contributes to global warming, and wean Britain off imported energy sources such as natural gas.

It will also determine the fate of the British nuclear industry: all existing reactors will be retired within a decade or so.

Mr Blair last month faced accusations of pre-empting his own review when he told business leaders at a CBI dinner that nuclear power was back on the agenda "with a vengeance".

The Environment Agency's submission to the energy review calls for ministers to be "technology neutral," ensuring that all types of low-carbon power generation - including nuclear, wind, wave and solar - face a level financial and political playing field.

Clive Bates, head of policy at the Environment Agency, yesterday said the Prime Minister was not taking... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Environment Agency's attack on the Prime Minister also cast doubt on the financial impact of investing billions of pounds in a new generation of nuclear reactors.

Officials at the agency, the lead government body for environmental protection in England, fear the Prime Minister's energy review is biased towards the nuclear option.

The energy review is intended to reduce the country's use of fossil fuels, which produce the carbon dioxide scientists say contributes to global warming, and wean Britain off imported energy sources such as natural gas.

It will also determine the fate of the British nuclear industry: all existing reactors will be retired within a decade or so.

Mr Blair last month faced accusations of pre-empting his own review when he told business leaders at a CBI dinner that nuclear power was back on the agenda "with a vengeance".

The Environment Agency's submission to the energy review calls for ministers to be "technology neutral," ensuring that all types of low-carbon power generation - including nuclear, wind, wave and solar - face a level financial and political playing field.

Clive Bates, head of policy at the Environment Agency, yesterday said the Prime Minister was not taking such a "technology neutral" approach.

Appearing before MPs at Westminster, Mr Bates was asked if Mr Blair was reflecting the agency's advice when he gave his speech to the CBI.

Mr Bates replied: "No, he was not technology neutral. He may not be listening to our advice."

He added that Mr Blair had set "a very aggressive timetable" for the energy review.

Mr Bates was giving evidence to the Trade and Industry Committee of the House of Commons, which is examining the case for new nuclear power.

As part of that investigation, it also emerged yesterday that the Environment Agency had warned Mr Blair that the multi-billion pound investment required for new reactors risked crowding out investment in renewable energy sources such as wind and wave power.

"We are concerned about the displacement effect that a large programme of investment in one capital-intensive technology like nuclear may have on energy efficiency and renewable technology," the agency said in a document submitted to MPs.

The paper also warns the government not to put too much emphasis on nuclear power, saying: "Nuclear power accounts for 8 per cent of the UK's primary energy. The success of the energy review will depend on developing a strategy for the other 92 per cent."

The agency's warning was echoed by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, who yesterday told an audience of business leaders: "Investment in nuclear will discourage investment in other technologies that could supply capacity."

Also giving evidence to the MPs yesterday, the government's chief nuclear safety inspector suggested a shortage of qualified scientists could hamper attempts to ensure safety in an expanded industry.

Mike Weightman, the chief nuclear inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said his agency was having difficulty recruiting staff with the right skills, and that the situation was likely to get worse. "I'm not happy with the skills base or the education base to support the nuclear industry in the future," Mr Weightman said.

But despite officials' warnings, Downing Street insiders say there is now no doubt that Mr Blair will next month signal the building of new reactors.

That may pose a political dilemma for the Scottish Executive, which is opposed to new nuclear plants in Scotland for the time being.
Highlands power line 'essential' for renewables target

AMBITIOUS targets to make Scotland the green powerhouse of Europe will be met only if controversial plans to build giant pylons across Scotland go ahead, it was claimed yesterday.

Scottish Renewables, the body representing the green industry, predicts Scotland could meet a Scottish Executive target to generate 18 per cent of electricity by next year, thanks to a large increase in the number of wind farms.

By 2020 more than half the country's electricity could come from renewables due to an increase in new technologies such as tidal power generation.

However, Maf Smith, chief executive of the group, said expansion beyond 2010 could not go ahead unless the Beauly to Denny power line was upgraded to transmit power from marine and wind generators in the north.

The claims drew anger from campaigners, who say the pylons will damage the landscape, ruin the tourism industry and endanger wildlife.

Mr Smith claimed the argument was based on "hard-nosed facts" from independent organisations and universities.

Scottish Renewables says Scotland is already generating 16 per cent of energy from renewable sources due to the recent increase in wind farms, and this would rise to 30 per cent by 2010.

However, Mr Smith said meeting the inflated target of generating more than half of electricity by 2020 relied on several factors. Most importantly, Scotland required a stronger grid network to transmit the energy from the north to the rest of the UK. He also said the increase relied on improved energy efficiency and developing new technologies.

Michael Hopkinson, of Highlands Against Pylons, said the Beauly to Denny line would put 600 giant pylons in some of Scotland's most important landscape, including national parks, and was not worth the cost to tourism and nature.


Source: http://news.scotsman.com/in...

JUN 14 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3060-blair-accused-of-brushing-aside-nuclear-energy-advice
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