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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 April 2006, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Power shortage risks 'overplayed'
Wind farms behind a power station in Largs, Scotland
Campaigners say renewable sources can play a bigger part
Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has accused a group of MPs of "over-egging" the risk of electricity shortages.

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee said the UK could not wait for a new generation of nuclear power stations and needed gas-fired stations.

A government energy review this year is expected to request more nuclear power.

The committee raised fears over the safety of more atomic power plants from terrorist attack, and also over how to safely dispose of nuclear waste.

Mr Wicks, who leads the review, said no decision had been taken but the extra cost of cleaner energy like nuclear was a price to pay for saving the planet.

'No one solution'

Speaking on BBC's Radio Five Live, he said there were concerns about what do with nuclear waste and the threat of terror attacks on nuclear stations.

But he added: "I think in favour of nuclear - despite what the Lib Dems say - is the scientific evidence that nuclear is a cleaner form of energy.

"It helps us with climate change, but we've got to look at the economics, and then we've got to weigh all these things before we make our recommendation to the prime minister and the government."

Worker puts together nuclear fuel assembly, BNFL
The report does not rule out future research on nuclear

Simon James, from the Nuclear Industry Association, said all methods of producing power needed to be considered.

"There is no one solution to many of our energy problems, we need to use everything we have at our disposal, so from our point of view, the ideal electricity mix will include renewables, will include nuclear, gas, clean coal and indeed energy efficiency to try and reduce the increase in our energy demands."

Earlier the committee said the UK faced a "generation gap" which nuclear power could not bridge.

The first nuclear power plants would not come online until 2017, and the proposed network would not be generating at full capacity until as late as 2030.

We have a fantastic resource up here - We've got great wind energy, longer-term we've got great potential for wind and tidal energy
Maf Smith
Scottish Renewables

It said an "extensive" programme of gas-powered stations needed to be set up.

The committee also said it was "scandalous" that not enough research was being carried out into alternative technologies such as carbon capture, which could limit the emissions from fossil fuels.

It said renewable energy sources could provide 20% of the UK's electricity by the year 2020.

Roger Higman of Friends of the Earth said the group welcomed "the fact that the MPs are saying let's look at energy efficiency".

"Nuclear power stations can't be built for 10 to 15 years and yet we need to start reducing the emissions causing climate change now if we are going to stand a reasonable chance of keeping climate change to tolerable levels," he said.

See the nuclear plants that need to be replaced

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