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The Cabinet could be headed for an embarrassing split over nuclear power as the UK establisment frets over the country's energy policy.

Margaret Beckett, secretary of state for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), has warned that concerns about nuclear power have not all been resolved.

She argues that in particular, the cost of building new stations has not been worked through fully.

Although Beckett denies being anti-nuclear, her stance appears to put her at odds with the prime minister who is pressing ahead with plans to include nuclear power stations in the government's energy policy.

Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser said this week that nuclear power must be included as an option if Britain is to reduce its CO2 emissions, but Beckett argues that nuclear power won't help Britain meet its short term targets - to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2010.

She told The Politics Show: "There’s the cost, which has never really been properly explored. There is the issue of the waste and how we deal with it and what the consequences are of having new nuclear build."

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has lambasted the government's "incoherent" energy policy, saying that the government has failed to tackle any of the challenges identified in a 2003 white paper in energy.

Digby Jones, director general of the group said that a third of the UK's energy resources will need to be replaced by 2020, The Times reports.

"Government must grasp the nettle and make tough decisions," he said.

Interested readers might want to wander over to the archive of George Monbiot's columns and read his recent thoughts on Sir David's position. ®

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