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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Call for rational nuclear debate
View of Sellafield
Nuclear power provides 25% of Britain's electricity
A former energy minister has called for "intelligent and rational debate" of sticking with nuclear power to help cut carbon emissions.

Brian Wilson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there had to be a shift from the polarised views of the 60s and 70s.

There are reports Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett is blocking attempts to put the issue back on the agenda.

The UK's 14 nuclear stations supply 25% of its electricity, but all but one will have shut by 2023.

The Sunday Telegraph reported a leaked briefing to new minister for energy Alan Johnson, suggesting civil servants want him to look at the "nuclear issue" shortly - but are being blocked by Mrs Beckett.

'No done deal'

But Mr Wilson told the BBC he did not believe there was any "done deal" on nuclear power.

"Hopefully what there is, is an intelligent debate which takes us away from the polarised pro and anti nuclear plans that were formed in many minds in the 60s and 70s," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There's a completely different context for the debate now and let's have it on an intelligent and rational basis".

Supporters say nuclear can help meet UK climate change targets, because it does not produce carbon emissions, and it would mean the UK does not have to rely on imported gas for its power.

But its cost, toxic waste and the risk of accidents or the danger of nuclear material falling into terrorist hands mean it remains strongly opposed by many.

Instead of flogging the dead horse of nuclear power, the government should change the failing policies that are causing carbon dioxide levels to soar
Tony Juniper
Friends of the Earth

Prime Minister Tony Blair has not ruled out building a new generation of nuclear power stations.

But he said it would be difficult to get the public's consent without first dealing with concerns about waste as well as the high costs involved.

Mr Wilson said the government had to create the right conditions to allow the private sector to decide whether it can invest in nuclear power. It would need some guarantee of electricity prices to ensure it was economically viable, he said.

"If we don't do that, then our targets on carbon reduction are out the window," he said.

But Friends of the Earth say nuclear power is "unsafe, uneconomic, unpopular and largely irrelevant" to climate change.

"Even doubling nuclear capacity would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at most eight per cent," said director Tony Juniper.

"Instead of flogging the dead horse of nuclear power, the government should change the failing policies that are causing carbon dioxide levels to soar."

It should instead concentrate on emissions from coal-fired power stations and transport, energy efficiency, and promoting renewable sources of energy, he said.

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