The government recently published a white paper on energy, citing economics and waste as reasons for turning its back on nuclear power. It said that by 2020 a fifth of the country’s electricity should be generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind, wave and solar power. It pledged an extra £60m for such technologies, increasing its total spending on renewable energy to about £350m over four years.

However, the Science and Technology Committee believes that these funds lack focus and are insufficient, both in absolute terms and in comparison with the UK’s competitors. “There is a superabundance of funding bodies, resulting in fragmentation of effort and confusion in academia and industry,” its report says. “Where UK technologies are developed, we found the private sector unwilling to develop these technologies while the government is failing to step in to take them forward or provide the necessary incentives to encourage private companies.”

The committee recommends the formation of a “Renewable Energy Authority” to identify and develop those technologies that are best suited to Britain's natural resources and skills. “We believe that the focus should be on offshore technologies - wind, wave and tidal - and nuclear fission and fusion,” it says.

The committee also criticizes the government’s economic incentives for the take up of renewable technologies, and proposes setting up a taxation system to reward “carbon-free” or “carbon-neutral” sources. “We believe that nuclear fission should enjoy the full status of a carbon-free technology,” it says. “Renewable sources of power are not coming on stream fast enough and nuclear power must fill the gap.”