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New nuclear push doomed to fail, warn engineers. . .

ENGINEERS HAVE slammed the Government's long-awaited energy review for failing to provide suf cient incentives for a new nuclear eet.

This is despite the energy review, published by the Department for Trade and Industry on Tuesday, specically setting out to push investment in nuclear power.

'What company in their right mind would be prompted to build a new nuclear power station [on the back of the energy review], ' asked ICE Energy Board former chairman David Anderson.

'Without the right prompt for the private sector, given the uncertainties [in the market], you are not going to do it, ' he said.

In the review, the Government outlines its strategy for a new generation of nuclear power stations by offering to refine planning regulations and giving the go ahead for pre-licensing.

Pre-licensing would allow operators to be granted licences for off-the-shelf designs before sites are chosen. This would shorten public inquiries by preventing objections on safety grounds. Only 30 days in the 340 day Sizewell B planning inquiry were spent discussing local issues.

But the review offers no financial support to the companies involved and introduces the spectre of long-term decommissioning and waste disposal costs. 'Any new nuclear power station would be proposed, developed and operated by the private sector, who would also meet decommissioning and their full share of long-term waste management costs, ' it says.

Anderson argued that the best return in the short and medium term remains gas because commercially driven companies will invest for the best return.

Group managing director of construction giant Amec, Mike Straughen agreed. 'The private sector will only invest across all technologies, and nuclear in particular, if we get assurances regarding the state of the market 10 years from now, ' he said.

Straughen said that streamlining current planning regulations is 'of great importance'.

Trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling said the Government would streamline the planning system to assist all major energy projects, including nuclear. 'We'll act to ensure that energy companies, whether seeking to build gas storage facilities, wind farms or any other large energy installation, are not faced with costly uncertainties and delay, ' Darling said.

'Local concerns about speci sites must be taken into consideration, but the right balance has to be struck with the national need for our vital energy infrastructure.'

The alternatives

Coal

To have a long-term future coal needs to tackle its heavy carbon emissions. A new generation of super-critical boilers can increase the efficiency of coal-red stations. These super-heat steam, extracting more energy from fuel. The Government is calling for projects to demonstrate that CO 2 can be effectively extracted from coal-red stations' exhaust streams. Carbon capture can theoretically reduce CO 2 emissions by 80% to 90%.

Gas

'While strategic storage could reduce the likelihood of an involuntary gas supply interruption, this is unlikely to be an issue before the middle of next decade, ' says the review. And increasing gas storage in order to insure against unplanned supply interruptions is too expensive to contemplate.

Renewables

The Renewables Obligation, which forces electricity suppliers to buy a proportion of their power from renewable generators, is set to increase from 6.7% to 15.4% in 2015. It will become harder to trade renewables obligation certicates, which are awarded to suppliers.

This will force rms to compete harder for green electricity, rather than the present option of buying their way out of the Obligation.

Severn Barrage

The Severn Barrage could provide 5% of UK electricity at a cost of £14bn. It is clear that while attractive in terms of energy generation, plans for a Severn Barrage would raise strong environmental concerns, ' the review states.

Energy from waste

There is no evidence to support public fears about the health impact of energy from waste plants, the DTI report says. Objections that energy from waste consumes combustible products that would otherwise be recycled can be overcome by the careful design of local waste strategies it adds.

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