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by MONITOR
l LAST week in Britain a planning inquiry ruled against the establishment of a huge wind farm planned for a prominent hill top in the Lake District. The decision was widely welcomed. Yesterday the government's Sustainable Development Commission advised that new nuclear power stations are not necessary to replace other forms of power generation in order to meet the UK's climatechange targets by cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Predictably, the Commision said that these tough targets could be met by greater emphasis on energy efficiency and the wider uses of renewable sources. At the moment Britain is overshooting its targets for carbon dioxide reduction by a considerable margin and a massive energy efficiency drive and alternative cleaner methods of generating energy will be needed in the near future if they are to be met. Yet almost every alternative source has its own problems, often environmental, as last week's decision on the Lake District wind farm showed. The government recently re-opened its decision of some five years ago to abandon nuclear generation and set up an urgent energy review, precipitated partly by the recent crisis over natural gas supplies; the review is due to report in the summer. It has been widely assumed that this report will opt for a new programme of nuclear power stations to replace the existing plants which deliver about 20 per cent of Britain's electricity but are due to be phased out by 2023. Although worries about the safety of nuclear power have been largely dispersed there remain unanswered questions about its true cost and the disposal of radioactive waste. The Sustainable Development Commissions rejection of nuclear power development is disappointing because its arguments are related to the knock-on effects of such a programme rather than to the merits and demerits of the technology. It says, for instance, that a new generation of nuclear power would undermine action to improve energy efficiency in homes and industry by “implying that a major technological fix is all that's required”. But the likelihood is that both nuclear power and improved energy efficiency will be needed if carbon dioxide emissions are to be significantly reduced and climate-change halted and reversed.