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Nuclear power's green promise dulled by rising temps

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His argument may have more resonance in France than elsewhere because, with 58 reactors, France depends on nuclear energy for 80 percent of its electricity and is criticized by some for failing to diversify its energy resources.

Concerns about global warming are central to the debate in European countries over energy. And this summer's heat wave and droughts, like those in 2003, have added a new and possibly confusing element to that debate.

Nuclear power is promoted as a clean alternative to oil and coal-powered generators that produce greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide, blamed by many scientists for warming the earth's surface and melting polar ice caps.

Public opinion seems to be increasingly open to that argument for nuclear power.

A 2005 European Union poll found 62 percent of those surveyed accepted the advantage of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 41 percent two years ago. And 60 percent acknowledged the benefits of nuclear power as a climate-friendly way to reduce dependence on oil.

There are vast differences from country to country, though, over whether to invest in new nuclear power technology or even replace aging reactors. Finland is building a giant new nuclear reactor, the first in Europe in 15 years.

In France,the government plans to build a new pressurized-water nuclear reactor by 2010. And in England, where opposition to nuclear plants has been intense, climate change worries may trump antinuclear feeling.

"The jury is still out," says Simon Tilford, an analyst with the Centre for European Reform in London, where the summer heat brought scattered blackouts. "But I think the government has had some success at turning public opinion around because they argued the environmental case."

There are vast differences from country to country, though, over whether to invest in new nuclear power technology or even replace aging reactors.

Finland is building a giant new nuclear reactor, the first in Europe in 15 years. In France,the government plans to build a new pressurized-water nuclear reactor by 2010. And in England, where opposition to nuclear plants has been intense, climate change worries may trump antinuclear feeling.

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