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New energy plans rule out nuclear options

Feb 24, 2003 - Birmingham Post (UK)

Tony Blair was today setting a target for Britain to cut emissions of environmentally damaging 'greenhouse' gases by 60% by the middle of the current century.

The announcement by the Prime Minister in a keynote speech on sustainable development coincides with the publication of the Government's long awaited Energy White Paper.

The document sets out plans to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable power which Whitehall sources said would herald a substantial change in policy in favour of 'green' power.

Specific targets on raising the amount of power generated by renewable sources such as wind, solar and wave, are not expected to be included.

However, in his speech, Mr Blair will say that the paper will lay the foundations for Britain to achieve a 60% cut in 'greenhouse' gas emissions by 2050.

Campaigners had been hoping that the Government would stick to previous aims of ensuring that 10% of energy would be generated by renewables by 2010 increasing to 20% by 2020.

Government sources said the White Paper would send a strong message of support for renewable energy with the 10% and 20% figures remaining a clear intention.

Energy minister Brian Wilson said last week he was less interested in setting targets than in creating the conditions which will help renewable energy take an increasing share of the market.

No new plans for the nuclear industry are expected to be announced, partly because ministers are believed to have accepted that the economics make nuclear an unattractive option.

There will be no plans for any new nuclear power stations and no further subsidies beyond aid already announced for British Energy.

Anti-nuclear campaigners said they believed the White Paper would herald a sea change in Government thinking on eergy policy because of acceptance that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by backing renewable energy and energy efficiency rather than through nuclear power.

Bryony Worthington, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: 'The White Paper will hopefully sound the final death knell for nuclear power in Britain. 'We also welcome what we expect to be a clear pledge to make cutting greenhouse gas emissions a central objective of energy policy.'

Ms Worthington added that the anticipated wise words from the Government would have to be backed up by decisive action and money.

Mr Blair was expected to argue that the country's security depends on having a diverse system of energy supply.

Even with major reforms Britain is set to become a net importer of oil and gas within the next few years for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

Mr Blair was expected to demand that the UK gets serious about renewable energy and will warn of the unsustainabilty of modern society.