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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
MPs warn of UK energy review rush
Nuclear sign painted on barrel of waste
The energy review is set to be dominated by the nuclear question
The UK is in danger of rushing through key energy policy decisions, an influential group of MPs has warned.

The Trade and Industry Committee said it was concerned that the outcome of the government's energy review had been decided in advance.

The group urged further consultation and said that problems with an energy shortfall may have been overestimated.

It added that the best way forward may be to extend the life of some nuclear plants rather than close them down.

'Past mistakes'

The government is expected to release its energy review on Tuesday, setting out its plans for the development of the UK's energy sector, and how to tackle controversial topics that include the future of nuclear and renewable power.

The energy review statement cannot be the government's final word
Trade and Industry Select Committee

Newspaper reports over the weekend suggested the government was preparing to announce that nuclear power was "economically viable".

It is also said to want a large increase in power from sources such as wind and solar.

"It is vital that energy policy is based on a full consideration of the evidence and has broad political and public support," said committee chairman Peter Luff.

"Otherwise, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past."

According to Mr Luff, the government review "risks being seen as little more than a rubber-stamping exercise for a decision the prime minister took some time ago".

In May, Mr Blair said that the issue of nuclear power was "back on the agenda with a vengeance", a comment that many observers saw as a strong signal that his administration was throwing its weight behind nuclear power.

Drums of nuclear waste
For new nuclear build to take place, the government would have to address some of the disadvantages that face both nuclear and other low-carbon technologies
The Trade and Industry Select Committee

According to the MPs, another reason for the scepticism was the fact that the government did not carry out a full assessment of the UK's projected future generating capacity before undertaking its review.

The group also said that the lack of preparation would probably make it harder for the government to win the cross-party backing it needs for its review.

"Whilst energy policy requires political as well as economic judgements, the failure to include the main political parties in the process militates against the possibility that they will sign up to the final outcome," the group said.

The committee added that ministers should not favour one source of energy supply over another. The government, it said, should be "technology neutral" and let the market determine how best to supply the UK's energy needs.

Energy generation and supply have climbed to the top of the agenda as the UK becomes more dependent on foreign suppliers, and has to decommission ageing nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

The committee said that one way of ensuring a more stable and steady supply of power would be to extend the life of the UK's nuclear reactors.

Should the nuclear plants get "life extensions" then the potential energy gap faced by the government will not be as severe as that which the current energy review assumes, the MPs said.

However, if new nuclear plants are needed, then the government has to set out a workable and long-term framework for energy pricing that will allow private companies to secure the financing they need to pay for projects.

"For new nuclear build to take place, the government would have to address some of the disadvantages that face both nuclear and other low-carbon technologies," the committee said in its report.

A key factor will be winning over the public, especially in sensitive and ethical areas such as the disposal and creation of nuclear waste, and the MPs urged the government to continue its process of consultation.

"The energy review statement cannot be the government's final word," the committee said.


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