Monday, January 23, 2006

Reactor policy to be made after 3-month public airing / World / UK - Reactor policy to be made after 3-month public airing

By Christopher Adams and James Blitz Published: January 23 2006 09:26 Last updated: January 23 2006 10:48
Alan Johnson, trade and industry secretary, on Monday annouced that the government's energy review will take a serious look at nuclear power but that no decision has been taken on replacing ageing plants. Employers' groups want a speedy outcome and incentives to encourage nuclear use.

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Ministers will spend just three months canvassing public opinion before making a decision on whether to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.
The government is to publish a consultation document to set up what it says will be a rigorous evaluation of the economic costs of different energy sources, including fossil fuels as well as renewable and nuclear power.
Speaking at a launch event for the three-month consultation attended by representatives from the industry, business and environment bodies and other stakeholders in central London, Mr Johnson, said “I want the widest possible engagement in this vital debate. We need to look at the risks to security of supply, our climate change commitments and, to the long term, to make sure we take the necessary action. There is not a do nothing option.”
He said: "The review is about looking long term on the basis of this changing environment of the fact that . . . we are now a net importer of gas and will soon be a net importer of oil; where do we stand in the UK, how can we prepare for that and how can we ensure we've got a sensible energy policy?"
He described himself as neutral on nuclear power, seeing arguments on both sides, but agreed that the government would "bite the nuclear bullet" soon, saying: "We are looking to produce proposals by late summer."
The review, led by Malcolm Wicks, energy minister, is due to report back to the prime minister in the early summer. A white paper setting out the government's thinking is expected soon afterwards. However, legislation is not needed to build nuclear plants, and it is unclear whether a bill would follow.
Some ministers and officials at Downing Street and the Department of Trade and Industry believe there is a strong case for at least some limited construction of nuclear plants. They want to look at what can be done to relax planning rules and speed up licensing of new plants. The government is to consider what incentives could encourage demand for nuclear power.
The EEF manufacturers' group has urged the government to move quickly, arguing that sharp increases in the price of gas have accentuated the need for urgency.
In its submission to the review, released today, it suggests exempting nuclear power from the climate change levy and replacing the renewables obligation subsidy with one that applies to all low-carbon forms of energy.


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