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ICE at odds over nuclear energy policy

ICE news

ENGINEERS WARNED that Britain faces crippling power cuts unless the government develops a more robust pronuclear power generating policy.

The warning came after the government was forced to bail out nuclear generator British Energy with a ú410M (US$650M) loan.

If crisis talks with the government over long term financing.

fail, the power generator has warned that it may become insolvent.

British Energy owns and operates eight nuclear power stations in the UK generating 25% of total capacity. It has been hit by plunging wholesale electricity prices, which have fallen 40% since the free market New Electricity Trading Arrangements were introduced in March 2000.

The company is losing up to US$6/MWh on the electricity it produces.

However ICE president Mark Whitby, a vocal opponent of nuclear power, disagreed.

'The market is dictating what energy prices should be through genuine market forces. Because of its cost, nuclear has always been the weakest link, ' he said.

Whitby accepted that the UK's existing nuclear power stations must run until the end of their design lives. But he said building more now would be at the expense of cleaner 'renewables'.

'What has happened to British Energy throws out the concept of building more, ' he said.

Whitby's comments do not reflect the high priority given to nuclear power by the ICE energy board in its draft response to the government's energy White Paper.

This says Britain needs a diverse power supply which includes nuclear electricity.

'Wholesale prices need to rise by at least US$6 to US$7 per MWh, ' said ICE energy board chairman David Anderson.

'At the moment generators cannot sell above cost and it is simply unsustainable.'

Nuclear generators need higher prices for their electricity if they are to fund decommissioning and new build.

'We are now in a circumstance not unlike California - bleeding the market dry and squeezing out operators, ' Anderson said.

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