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Coalition drops Severn barrier but backs new nuclear plants

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Plans for a massive electricity-generating barrage across the Severn estuary were today given the thumbs-down by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne

Huhne announced the results of a feasibility study into proposals for the tidal energy scheme, amid reports suggesting that it has been judged economically unviable.

In a statement to Parliament on the future of Britain’s energy supplies, Huhne went on to name locations for eight new nuclear power plants near existing sites in England and Wales.

The approved sites are: Bradwell in Essex, Hartlepool, Heysham in Lancashire, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in South Gloucestershire, Sellafield in Cumbria, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in Anglesey.

Supporters of the barrage had argued it could use ‘green’ power to light up one in 20 British homes.

Five tidal power schemes with the potential to generate electricity in the Severn estuary were shortlisted last year, with a multimillion-pound two-year study launched to look at three barrages and two innovative lagoon schemes.

The most high-profile of the proposed schemes was the 10-mile wide Cardiff-Weston barrage, which would have cost an estimated £15 billion and meet 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs, but was controversial because it could have destroyed thousands of hectares of habitat which would need to be recreated elsewhere.

Conservation groups have been fighting the proposals which they believe could destroy the winter feeding grounds of 65,000 birds.

The barrage could also have had economic impacts on the area, both positive in creating jobs for the area, and negative in damaging access to the Severn’s ports and disrupting recreation such as angling.

The feasibility study also looked at two smaller barrages further up the estuary and two lagoons on the Welsh and English shores.

The coalition Government plans to allow companies to create a new generation of nuclear plants on the condition they are built without any public subsidy.

But under the coalition agreement the Liberal Democrats are able to abstain in parliamentary votes on the issue, having opposed the building of new nuclear plants in their election manifesto.

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