Speculation that nuclear power could once again be used to generate electricity in Cumbria is being dismissed by industry experts as "way too premature".

Claims that new power stations will automatically be built on existing nuclear sites such as those at Calder Hall and Heysham have been played down by the Nuclear Industry Association.

Some political commentators believe the axed Calder Hall plant part of the Sellafield complex at Seascale would be the preferred site for one of the first new-generation plants if Prime Minister Tony Blair gets his way.

Calder Hall, which ended electricity generation in 2003 and is currently owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, is being predicted as an ideal site for a new plant because of its existing infrastructure and an assumption that there would be a sympathetic local population.

Mr Blair is looking increasingly likely to embrace nuclear energy as a significant part of the energy mix if the UK is to fulfill its obligations to reduce carbon emissions.

Yet less than two years ago, a government white paper dismissed this form of generation as an unattractive option.

Now Mr Blair appears to have accepted the recommendation of Sir David King, his chief scientific advisor, who says that renewable forms of energy such as wind and wave power cannot fill the green energy gap.

Current policy will see many nuclear power complexes closing over the next three decades. One of the last to close will be Heysham 2, which is earmarked for the axe in 2023. Only Sizewell B will remain after that and only until 2032.

Speculation that existing sites will be used for new generating plants arises from a belief that there will be less local opposition because people have become used to having giant nuclear stations on their doorsteps. Some political pundits are also claiming that planning permission would be easier and swifter to obtain.

But a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Industry Association said: "It is way too early to speculate about the sighting of any new plants. And it is unfair to assume local populations will be a push over."

She said: "People seem to assume that because an existing plant is there it will automatically be acceptable to build another on the same site. This is not so.

"It has been mentioned, too, that having the right sort of expertise in the local community will make it better to use a particular site. However, people routinely re-locate to new nuclear plants, so it's no big reason to build a station in one place rather than another.

"Having an existing connection to the National Grid has been given as another reason why new plants should be built on existing nuclear sites. But though it would be expensive to start building such infrastructure from scratch, it would not stop a plant being built on a site if it is more suitable in other respects. The industrial landscape is always changing and any new plants would have to reflect this."