NUCLEAR POWER is the key to the UK meeting sustainability and greenhouse gas emission targets agreed earlier this year at the Kyoto climate change conference, according to engineers at the British Nuclear Industry Forum conference this week.
Engineers argued that as the UK's current stock of nuclear facilities were due to be decommissioned in 2010, planning for the next generation of stations had to begin immediately to avoid severe power generation problems in the future.
The conference heard that renewable alternatives to fossil fuels such as wind and solar power would never be capable of generating more than around 1% of the nation's current power needs.
And apart from hydroelectric power sources, which could provide up to 20% of UK demand, delegates were told that only nuclear power provided a realistic alternative to burning fossil fuels with its high CO2 emission.
Targets agreed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott call for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut to 8% below current levels between 2008 and 2012. This is thought to be equivalent to a reduction in real terms of around 20% by 2001. Without nuclear energy and a programme to replace ageing advanced gas reactors, the conference heard, the UK could never achieve these targets.
However, the conference accepted that the industry had much work to do to find a solution to the current nuclear waste disposal problems if it was to present a credible case for nuclear energy as a environmental alternative.