Friday, September 30, 2005

Decision on UK nuclear power by end of 2006

FT.com / Energy Utilities Mining / Renewable energy - Decision on UK nuclear power by end of 2006

By Jean Eaglesham, Political Correspondent
Published: September 28 2005 22:05 | Last updated: September 28 2005 22:05

The government will give a “yes or no” to nuclear power by the end of next year following a decision by Tony Blair to inject “greater urgency” into the nuclear debate.


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Malcolm Wicks, energy minister, said on Wednesday a government review of energy policy next year would “have to include a proposal about nuclear”. He added: “The proposal could be no it could be yes.”

At this week's Labour party conference, the prime minister appeared to give a strong signal of support for replacing the UK's ageing nuclear power stations, all but one of which is due to be decommissioned by 2023.

Previously, Mr Blair had committed to making a decision on new nuclear stations by the end of this parliament.

The acceleration of the timetable reflected the importance Mr Blair attached to energy policy, Mr Wicks said in an interview with the Financial Times. Mr Blair is chairing a new cabinet committee on energy and the environment, which will drive next year's review.

In his speech to the party conference, Mr Blair referred explicitly to nuclear power and emphasised two planks of energy policy climate change and security of supply. On both counts nuclear power is seen as having an edge on alternative energy sources.

Mr Wicks also suggested that nuclear and renewable energy were complementary. “Some people are fearful that what Tony Blair said undermines the renewables industry. Well, it doesn't. I'm confident that by 2020, we're going to be getting 20 per cent [of electricity] from renewables.”

The decision to build new nuclear stations was not a foregone conclusion. “I happen to be nuclear-neutral and so is Alan Johnson [trade and industry secretary]. I think that's helpful.”

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