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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
UK sees nuclear power as 'viable'
Nuclear plant being demolished
Decommissioned power plants need to be replaced in coming years
The UK government is expected to say nuclear power is "economically viable" when it unveils an energy review on Tuesday, a report has said.

The Observer newspaper claims to have seen a final copy of the review, which will lay out recommendations for the development of the UK's energy sector.

However, the government will want any expansion of nuclear power to be paid for by companies and not by the state.

It also wants a large increase in power from sources such as wind and solar.

The Department of Trade and Industry said it would not comment on leaks and declined to confirm or deny the contents of the review.

Powering ahead

Energy generation and supply has become a hot topic as demand increases and the UK becomes more dependent on foreign suppliers, and has to decommission ageing nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

Nuclear should have a role to play in the future of the UK generating mix, alongside other low carbon-generating options
DTI energy review

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this year that nuclear power was back on the agenda, marking a shift in government policy and sparking a fierce debate about its safety and financial viability.

In a 2003 White Paper on UK energy, the government said nuclear power was not the best option from a financial point of view.

The Observer said the government's change of direction came because without nuclear power the UK would end up using more gas, much of which would have to come from nations in unstable regions such as the Middle East.

According to the paper, gas will account for 55% of the UK's total energy consumption by 2020, with as much as 90% of that being imported.

Woman protesting against nuclear power
The nuclear topic stirs up emotions

"Based on a range of possible scenarios, the economics of nuclear now look more positive than at the time of the 2003 Energy White Paper," the DTI is reported to have concluded in its review.

"Government considers that nuclear should have a role to play in the future of the UK generating mix, alongside other low carbon-generating options," it added.

Offsetting

In an effort to balance many concerns about the increased role of nuclear power, the government will also look to boost the amount of power from sources such as wind, solar, tidal and agricultural sources, the Observer said.

The UK currently gets about 4% of its energy from so-called renewable sources and the government wants this to increase this to 20%. It also will look to providing greater support for developing new technologies, the paper said.

While many experts will welcome these changes, others have raised question marks over the willingness of companies to invest in nuclear power and other carbon-free energy sources when there is no guarantee of future power prices.

Much will depend on how companies in the future are penalised for the pollution they produce, and how quickly European states can implement a harmonised and stable carbon-trading market, the paper added.


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