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Nuclear power will fill the energy gap


THE GOVERNMENT'S energy white paper is clearly well intentioned. What is more, it ranks as the boldest statement in favour of the development of renewable energy resources any Government has made to date.

Certainly the vision it has of this country in the year 2020 makes interesting reading.

Then, we are told, we will live with an energyefficient housing stock of both old and new buildings. Many will make use of solar power.

Located beside our cities and towns will be small-scale sources of energy: on- or offshore wind farms, waste-burning power stations or combined heat and power schemes.

Gone are the big coal-fired and nuclear power stations, in their place is local, community-based power generation.

This vision holds out many challenges for construction. The first is extending the power distribution grid to tie in a new assortment of energy schemes. Another is to respond positively to the decision to bring forward the review of the Building Regulations to 2005.

But this picture of mix-and-match electricity generation looks over-charged.

It is flawed, because it relies on words such as 'ambition' and 'aspiration', instead of setting firm targets. Such fine sentiments have a habit of producing more hot air than concrete and steel.

Even if renewable sources (assuming Britain's households will pay the bigger electricity bills) fulfil their potential, there is still a big generating gap to fill as old nuclear facilities come off-line and energy demand continues to soar.

One option is to turn to Norway and import gas to fuel the newly built gas-fired power stations around the country.

The other is to secure the nation's base load needs with one or two nuclear power stations.

The Government has fudged this politically sensitive decision until after the next election.

But, delayed or not, nuclear power has a place in meeting future energy needs.