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Huge tide power project scrapped as UK confirms no subsides for nuclear power

The UK has finally killed plans for a huge tidal power facility in the Severn estuary.

Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy and climate change, announced today that there was “no strategic case” for public money to support the Severn Barrage project.

The project could have supplied 4.4% of the UK’s electricity supply for over 120 years, according to the Sustainable Development Commission (which is about to be scrapped in the government’s ‘quango cull’). But Huhne says the potential cost of £30 billion is just too high and there are also fears over the local environmental impact of the barrage.

Renewables will make up over half of new power sources built in the UK by 2050, he says. With nuclear and fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and storage making up a “significant proportion” of the remainder.

Huhne also announced that eight sites has been confirmed as suitable for new nuclear power stations, but confirmed there will be no subsidies for such plants. Industry will have to pay the full costs of waste management and decommissioning.

The proposals are now out to consultation.

[CORRECTED 18/10, the Severn project is a tide power project, not a wave power project as originally stated.]

Media responses

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne gave the green light to eight new nuclear power stations today in a move that leaves him facing accusations of hypocrisy. The Lib Dem minister gave the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear plants, despite having campaigned against them during the election.

Daily Mail

Is the rocket about to crash? I ask because, just two years ago, David Cameron promised he would put “rocket boosters” behind developing tidal energy if he came to power.

David Cameron still can, and should, make good on his promise, by boosting research into these new options. Britain’s tides are just too good to waste, and they provide a regular, reliable source of clean energy – unlike the intermittent winds on which Government policies are making us too reliant. If he doesn’t, he really will deserve a rocket.

– Geoffrey Lean, Daily Telegraph

[N]ot a penny of public subsidy will go to finance the proposed nuclear renaissance.

The government has said this before and the power companies have swallowed it with their own proviso – we can build without subsidy but there must be a price formula. I don’t believe a word of it, neither the government’s no-subsidy guarantee nor the power company’s demurral, and the risk is that the nuclear renaissance in the Western world will fizzle into a long half-life of decline. Instead we will get a fossil fuel renaissance when power companies, driven to panic measures by the imminent and legally-sanctioned closure of old nukes and old coal-fired stations, launch a massive dash for cheap natural gas.

– Carl Mortished, Globe and Mail


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