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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.K. Report Spurns Nuclear Energy

LONDON -- Britain, Europe's biggest natural gas consumer, should meet its electricity needs by relying on gas-fired plants and renewable energy sources in the next decade and not nuclear generation, a group of British lawmakers said.

Nuclear power plants will take too long to build, will require government subsidies and may cut carbon emissions less than expected, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said in a report released Monday.

Eighteen of Britain's 23 nuclear reactors, some dating to the 1960s, will be shut by 2015. Including gas and coal-fired plants that must be closed, a quarter of Britain's electricity generation capacity will have to be replaced over the next nine years even if demand does not increase.

"Nuclear power cannot contribute either to the need for more generating capacity or to more carbon reductions as it simply could not be built in time,'' the committee said in its report. The gap will need to be filled "largely by an extensive program of new gas-fired power stations, supplemented by a significant growth in renewables.''

Prime Minister Tony Blair, told by utilities that renewable forms of energy alone would not satisfy rising demand, signaled his support for nuclear power in November by specifically asking the committee to consider the option. Blair might decide whether to build more nuclear plants before Parliament breaks for the summer at the end of July.

Voters favor renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar power. In February, 21 members of Parliament signed a petition saying nuclear power would be "far too expensive and environmentally damaging.'' Fifty signed a separate measure demanding a vote. The Liberal Democrats, the third-largest party in the House of Commons, oppose nuclear power.

The environmental committee raised other concerns about nuclear power, including the diminishing availability of uranium supplies needed to run the plants and the risk that terrorists might cause catastrophe by attacking the stations.

The group of lawmakers also criticized the government for failing to act on many of the recommendations of an earlier report produced in 2003. The government white paper focused on the use of renewable energy and conservation to help meet both Britain's energy needs and its targets for reducing carbon emissions.

"We remain convinced that the vision contained in the white paper remains correct,'' the committee said. "What is now needed is a far greater degree of commitment from the government on implementing it.''

The committee concluded that Britain's free-market approach to power generation would not solve power supply issues or cut carbon emissions.

"The real issue is whether the current liberalized market and policy framework will promote sufficient investment in lower-carbon electricity generation to come on stream after 2016 to maintain a downward path in carbon emissions,'' it said in Monday's 81-page report.

Emissions prices traded near a record in Europe on April 13, on expectations that governments would force greater reductions in output of carbon dioxide after 2007.

The European Union began carbon-allowance trading last year. Each national government granted its factories and power plants permits for carbon dioxide. Those that emit more than their allowance must pay a fine or buy an allowance from a company that emitted less.