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Hydro-electric dam proposed in the Severn Estuary

The government has launched a study into the possibility of building a giant hydro-electric barrier across the Severn Estuary between England and Wales.

John Hutton, secretary of state for business, said the government would immediately start studying the feasibility of a barrage, which would be powered by the tide and could provide 5 per cent of Britain's power needs.

At around 8.6 gigawatts, it would put out more power than six of the next generation nuclear power stations currently under consideration in the UK.

Carbon-free power is essential to help Britain meet its goal of cutting CO2 emmissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, but some conservationists say the local damage caused by such a barrage would outweigh wider benefits.

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