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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 17:16 GMT
North West: Energy gap
Steve Rawling
The Politics Show North West


As the government launches its energy review, The Politics Show looks at the arguments for and against building a new generation of nuclear power stations.

What else might fill the energy gap and what these decisions will mean for the region's economy and environment.

The energy gap

The government says that since the Energy White Paper in 2003, the country has become more dependant on imported gas, prices have risen and so have concerns about the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels.

Even if renewables like wind and wave power increase to supply 20% of our electricity generation by 2020 - as planned - the country will still be heavily dependant on imported gas.

Unless the government takes the controversial decision to build more nuclear power stations.

The North West - a nuclear powerhouse

The North West has four main nuclear facilities - two of the country's biggest nuclear power stations at Heysham, uranium processing at Capenhurst near Chester and fuel processing at Springfields near Preston.

The huge nuclear sites on the West Cumbrian coast - Sellafield, Drigg and Calder Hall - generate employment for thousands of people in Barrow and the South Lakeland area.

These sites employ around half of the 40,000 people working in the UK nuclear industry.

Even if no new power stations are built, the region is still expected to take a share of the 56bn that will have to be spent over the coming decades on decommissioning these sites when they reach the end of their natural lives over the next 20 years.

So it is hardly surprising that the North West is at the forefront of training the next generation of nuclear scientists.

At Manchester University, the Dalton Nuclear Institute was created last year to lead research into decommissioning and radioactive waste disposal.

But without a clear commitment to build new nuclear power stations, Institue director Professor Richard Clegg is worried it will become increasingly hard to attract scientists or skilled workers into the industry.

The alternatives

Greenpeace argue that the money the government could spend on nuclear power should go into developing clean and renewable resources like solar or wind power, wave power, biomass or geothermal energy.

Scientists at the region's universities are currently working on innovative ways of harnessing wave power.

The region already has eight windfarms - one of them offshore.

Building work is due to start on a new windfarm on Scout Moor above Rochdale this Spring. But this scheme attracted a huge protest from local residents and green campaigners, appalled at the impact on the local environment.

Clearly there are no easy options for filling the energy gap.

On The Politics Show this Sunday we look at the issues facing the region and debate with a pro-nuclear Labour MP and a representative of the Green Party.

Also, we bring you up to date on two rival campaigns to create an elected mayor in Liverpool.

The Politics Show

Join Jim Hancock and Gill Dummigan on the Politics Show on Sunday 05 February 2006 at 11.55am on BBC One.

Have your say - Tell us what you think is the answer to the energy crisis.

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North West
11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show


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