9 June 2005 Edition

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Knocking back the nuclear option - Crucial new British energy strategy report launched


One report, two conclusions; the strength of the nuclear power lobby was fully evident last week in the wake of the launch of a new report on electricity supply strategies for Britain.

The Daily Telegraph proclaimed that the report was a "boost for nuclear power" and carried a headline that said "New nuclear plants backed on cost and safety grounds".

Reuters had a different view. Their coverage of the Council for Science and Technology report focused on the fact that "Britain's power industry has suffered a complete collapse in research and development". This means that Britain is facing severely curtailed options when it comes to developing new energy options to deal with climate change.

In Irish government circles, this crucial report that could guide the future direction of British energy policy has gone uncommented on, though Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan has told An Phoblacht that he will be putting a written question to the relevant ministers asking them for their views on the report.

Morgan said: "It is clear from this report that the British Government energy policy has failed. There is not enough R&D, not enough training of workers and so now we in Ireland are being presented with the possibility of a new generation of nuclear power stations being built as the soft option to cope with decades of failed energy strategies in Britain."

The report's actual findings and recommendations are wide ranging. They found that the British electricity supply is based on a now aging network built between the 1940s and 1960s. The three key issues for the future were: the collapse of energy R&D budgets over the last three 15 years, which was accompanied by a stagnation in workforce supply and training; the large attention to investing in new technologies on a large scale; and the need for an improved government strategy.

The report does regard nuclear power as a "suitable technology" for future energy strategies. However, it includes wind and tidal power as suitable options also, along with government investment in R&D aimed at new and renewable fuel sources.

One of the findings of the report was that the British Government should co-ordinate energy research at an international level. Two years ago, Arthur Morgan, when on a Sinn Féin delegation to Downing Street, presented Tony Blair with a letter outlining the concerns of party members and voters about the direction of energy strategies in Britain, including the continued reliance on nuclear power.

Morgan also proposed that the British and Irish Governments should "explore the possibility of developing joint British-Irish renewable energy projects". It seems that the Council for Science and Technology are reaching similar conclusions. The question is, has anyone in the Irish Government read the report?

Council for Science and Technology

Electricity Supply Strategy recommendations

(1) Investment in large scale low carbon generation facilities is needed now

(2) British government should keep the nuclear option open

(3) British government should consult with public about future energy options

(4) More investment in education and training, with government funding for developing new and renewable fuel sources, along with investment in energy management, electricity storage and the supply and training of skilled workers.

(5) British government should coordinate research funding and participate in international programmes on energy research.

(6) The role of Transport in creating C02 emissions must be recognised

An Phoblacht
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