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Ministers cautious as Blair keeps nuclear option open


PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair this week pledged that nuclear power would be considered as part of the UK's energy mix to cut dependence on fuel imports from unstable parts of the world.

In his keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton he pointed out that nuclear power could also form part of efforts to tackle global warming.

'How much longer can countries like ours allow the security of our energy supply to be dependent on some of the most unstable parts of the world-' he said, adding that technology had to be developed 'that allows prosperous nations to adapt and emerging ones to grow sustainably'.

He added: 'That means an assessment of all options, including civil nuclear power.' However, Blair's upbeat comments on nuclear power contrasted with the more sceptical views expressed by climate change minister Elliot Morley in an environmental conference fringe meeting this week.

'People are not knocking on the Department of Trade & Industry's door saying let us build more nuclear power stations, ' he said. 'The industry would require some sort of market support and we have to ask if it is the right time to throw money at this, when there are other forms of energy to invest in - such as tidal and wave power.' Energy minister Malcom Wicks was also cautious about the potential of nuclear energy.

He told a fringe meeting on nuclear power that the government would make a decision within the next four years.

'The government is not about to press the nuclear button, ' he said. 'We must set aside prejudices and superstition and have an open debate on the future of nuclear power.' oth ministers pointed out that the long lead times for nuclear power construction meant it could only be an option for energy supply in the long term. In the short term government is understood to be leaning towards retro-fi tting carbon sequestration equipment to coal fi ed power stations as a strategy for reducing carbon emissions.

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