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Government launches Severn Barrage feasibility study

Business secretary John Hutton today revealed the Government will commission a feasibility study into the Severn Barrage.

Speaking at the Labour party conference in Bournemouth, Hutton described the barrage as a "truly visionary project".

The Severn Barrage could supply 8.64GW of power - equivalent to two nuclear power stations or 5% of total UK electricity demand. The 10km long barrage would do this by harnessing the Severn estuary's 20m tidal range to drive turbines. It would also carry a road and rail line.

The study announced by Hutton will examine the feasibility of using the Severn to generate electricity and will take into account the structure's likely impact on the natural environment, its social and economic impacts and financing of its £14bn capital cost.

It will also look at the potential for other UK barrages.

Conservative shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said that while she welcomed any study into tidal power, the Government’s approach to renewable energy to date had been far too limited.

“This review must also consider the use of tidal lagoons in areas such as North Wales and deliver practical solutions to the problem of climate change," she said.

“Any proposals to harness the energy of the Severn estuary must have public support and take into full account the environment of the area."

The Severn Barrage has long been opposed by environmental groups for its potentially devastating effect on a part of the UK proposed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as a special area for conservation. It does, however, have the backing of the Welsh Assembly.

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