Severn tidal barrage axed as nuclear power plants proposed

| 18th October 2010
Severn Barrage

The Severn barrage project - outlined in the above map - has been scrapped for now

Plans for a tidal barrage across the River Severn to produce hydroelectric power have been scrapped due to financial constraints as government confirms eight sites for new nuclear power plants

The UK has scrapped plans for a £30 billion Severn tidal project, claiming it would be 'very costly to deliver and very challenging to attract the necessary investment from the private sector alone'.

Although the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) and others had been in favour of the scheme other groups, particularly the RSPB, had opposed the expected loss of a protected wetland habitat.

In recent months it became clear the project faced economic rather than environmental challenges with experts telling the Ecologist recently that the scheme had become 'ludicrously expensive'.

Although the UK has a target of achieving 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 it had not been including the Severn tidal barrage, which could have met 5 per cent of the target, in its plans.

Announcing the decision, energy secretary Chris Huhne said other low carbon options represented a 'better deal for taxpayers' but added that his department had not ruled out a Severn Barrage in the future, stating that the decision was made, ‘in the context of wider climate and energy goals, including consideration of the relative costs, benefits and impacts of a Severn tidal power scheme, as compared to other options for generating low carbon electricity.’

However, the RSPB said it remained opposed to any barrage across the Severn Estuary.

‘A barrage like the one proposed between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare would not only destroy huge areas of estuary marsh and mudflats used by 69,000 birds each winter and block the migration routes of countless fish, but, as confirmed by this report, it would dramatically increase risk of flooding to residential properties,’ said Martin Harper, head of sustainable development at RSPB.

‘The Government study needed to demonstrate that a big barrage could form a cost effective part of a radical plan to tackle climate change. It is clear today that a barrage does not make economic sense.’

At the same time as scrapping the Severn tidal plan, energy secretary Chris Huhne also confirmed eight sites where it will allow new nuclear power plants to be built: Bradwell, Essex; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; Wylfa, Isle of Anglesey; and Hartlepool.

Huhne said he was 'fed up with the stand-off between advocates of renewables and of nuclear which means we have neither'. But Greenpeace said today the economics of nuclear did not add up and that the UK taxpayers would end up paying, with no nuclear plant having yet been built without public money.

A recent public poll found the majority of the public feel the risk of nuclear outweigh the benefits and that the industry cannot be trusted to run the plants safely. They said they would prefer to see more investment in renewables.

Severn barrage faces economic rather than environmental hurdles
The coalition Government's silence on the Severn tidal barrage may be a reflection of the high economic costs rather than the environmental concerns surrounding the project
Severn barrage - is there an alternative?
Will the temptation of vast amounts of clean, tidal energy lead us to ignore the chance of serious environmental damage? Mark Anslow and Peter Clark report
The Ecologist June 1980: Tidal barrages: boon or blight?
Thirty years ago this month, Gordon Rattray Taylor wrote ‘Tidal barrages: boon or blight?’, looking at the feasibility of tidal power in the UK; something that is still being discussed today
Power On - Tidal Power
The potential for the use of tidal power in the UK is enormous, amounting to, at the very least, 20 per cent of our electricity needs.
Think nuclear is clean energy? Ask the Nigeriens
As the new nuclear renaissance grows, so too does uranium extraction. In Niger, which boasts some of the world's richest deposits, NGOs say that the poor are being exploited for the West's 'clean energy'


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