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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Ministers warned on nuclear power
Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk
Nuclear power has "diverted" the government, the commission warns
Nuclear power alone cannot solve the UK's energy inefficiencies, the government's environment advisers warn.

An energy review, due next month, is expected to call for additional nuclear power stations to be built as replacements for older plants.

The Sustainable Development Commission said the nuclear option "won't get us anywhere near tackling the UK's energy and climate change crisis".

Its chairman called for more efficient homes and less wasted power.

"The government has been so busy trying to make the case for nuclear power it risks overlooking the much bigger challenges facing the UK today," Jonathan Porritt said.

"Even if the UK's nuclear capacity is doubled, that would still leave 84% of total energy consumption unaccounted for."

The commission recommended the country's "wasteful electricity network" be upgraded, with a greater emphasis on local power grids to reduce the proportion of supplies which were lost before reaching households.

Jonathan Porritt
Mr Porritt wants a guarantee that taxpayers won't fund nuclear power
It also suggested "smart energy meters" and "sensible billing", with the intention that less energy was sold in the future.

It said the annual road tax should be reconsidered to penalise transport users with the least environmentally-friendly vehicles, and for "radical" building standards so new houses no longer need heating by 2010.

"Even if nuclear gets the 'green light'," Mr Porritt said, "it won't get us anywhere near tackling the UK's energy and climate change crises, hence the crucial importance of getting it right on efficiency, renewables, heat and microgeneration."

'Generation gap'

In April, the Commons environmental audit committee said the UK could not wait for a new generation of nuclear power stations and needed gas-fired stations.

It warned of a "generation gap" which nuclear power could not bridge, because the first nuclear plants would not come online until 2017, and it may be 2030 before the proposed network was generating at full capacity.

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

Earlier this month, UK energy company Centrica announced it would begin building Britain's first major new power station in almost five years.

It intends to invest 400m to develop the gas-fired facility near Plymouth in Devon.

The decision came at a time of increasing uncertainly over the future of Britain's energy supplies.

Volatile global wholesale energy markets have led to a number of power suppliers increasing their household electricity and gas bills.

However, any proposal to increase the number of nuclear power stations in the UK is likely to be vehemently opposed by environmentalists and people living near the proposed sites.


SEE ALSO
New UK power station to be built
16 Jun 06 |  Business
Firms 'to waste 500m of energy'
15 Jun 06 |  Science/Nature

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