JUST over two years ago the British government received an expert report on the future of Britain's energy needs and ways of meeting them. After studying the report Mr Blair announced that the government did not intend to take the option of nuclear power stations and instead would rely on renewable sources (wind. solar, wave etc) and on Britain's own oil and gas, replenished as necessary with supplies from external suppliers when local resources diminished. Yesterday, however, Mr Blair announced a further inquiry into Britain's energy future and in doing so indicated that nuclear power stations are now back on the agenda for consideration. Regardless of the pros and cons of the different kinds of energy that might be used in the future, and of the savings that might have to be made to reduce demand, it is surely not unreasonable to ask why Mr Blair and his colleagues made what has proved to be an unsustainable decision to reject nuclear power only two years ago. Governments are elected to take decisions about a nation's future wellbeing among which few are more important than an adequate energy supply. Mr Blair has said that “things have changed” in the past two years and that a re-think is necessary. Among the changes, obviously, is anxiety about the security of supplies from outside Britain, even from our partners in the European Union. Yet surely, this should have been at the top of ministers' minds when they last addressed this issue? Or was Mr Blair too busy with Iraq? It will be surprising if the new inquiry does not give the government the arguments it needs to opt for a new generation of nuclear power stations to replace the existing ones which have to be decommissioned by 2023. There may be reservations about security against terrorism and about whether nuclear is “clean” in the global warming sense. But the bottom line is that there is really no viable alternative. Mr Blair knew this before but ducked the issue. Now someone else will have to face it.


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