Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 08:51 UK

Nasa expert meets Kingsnorth duo

James Hansen
James Hansen is meeting Kingsnorth protesters in Maidstone

A top climate change scientist and adviser to Al Gore is meeting activists opposed to plans to build a new coal-fired power station in Kent.

James Hansen, head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in the USA, will discuss their concerns about the proposed plant at Kingsnorth.

Dr Hansen last year wrote to Gordon Brown urging him to reject Kingsnorth.

Energy firm E.ON has said the new plant would produce power from coal more cleanly than ever before in the UK.

Dr Hansen gave evidence on Wednesday as a defence witness in the trial of six Greenpeace activists charged with causing almost 30,000 damage at the existing Kingsnorth power station last year.

On Thursday, he is in Maidstone again to meet two members of Kingsnorth Climate Action Medway group.

"It will be an honour to meet James Hansen, and the fact that such a pre-eminent scientist is coming to Kent just goes to show how big the issue of Kingsnorth has become and its global significance," said spokesman Andy Rogers.

Dr Hansen's visit follows a week-long protest by climate change activists at the proposed site last month.

Medway Council gave its approval to the E.ON planning application at the beginning of January.

The proposed new Kingsnorth power station
E.On is planning the UK's first new coal-fired power station for 24 years

The final decision on the proposed coal-fired station will be made by the government.

Opponents say that no new power stations burning coal should be permitted unless they are fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology which prevents the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide.

They also say that if the Prime Minister gives approval to Kingsnorth, it could pave the way for a whole new generation of coal-fired power stations.

But E.ON says the 1bn investment would build two high efficiency units using the latest "supercritical" technology.

"If approved, these would be the UK's first supercritical coal-fired units, and they would produce enough electricity to supply around 1.5m homes," it says.

"Rated at 800MW each, the new units would be 20% more efficient than the existing power station, allowing for a reduction in carbon emissions of almost two million tonnes a year."

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