'Nuclear power is not the only solution to our future energy needs'

January 20, 2006

Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental science at UEA, surveys the British public on some hot topics

The attempt to reconcile our growing need for energy with fears over climate change is often thought to be a devil's bargain.

But a survey of public opinion led by Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental science at the University of East Anglia, says the answer may not be so black or white.

"Scientists agree unequivocally that there's a major issue to be tackled in how we are going to generate enough energy in the future. The survey shows that nuclear power is not the only solution but a small part of the mix," he says.

Britain has 12 nuclear power stations, presently supplying 22 per cent of our electricity, but eleven of the 12 will close in the next 20 years. As yet there is no consensus about how the energy deficit will be met.

Professor Pidgeon says: "The issue around nuclear power has been bubbling up over the past two to three years and is becoming an increasingly critical question for the Government. A review in 2003 concluded that nuclear power would not be further developed at the time but things could be different in the future."

The survey led by Professor Pidgeon reviews public opinion on energy. It shows that public concern about climate change is reaching unprecedented levels.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents would support new nuclear power stations if it helped tackle climate change. But 78 per cent said they appreciated the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"Ordinary people have a more sophisticated understanding of the future of energy than many decision-makers like to believe. This wider context is something the Government should take very seriously," Professor Pidgeon says.

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