UK | Britain on brink of ‘nuclear renaissance’

Posted on July 4, 2011

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UK | TELEGRAPH | 04 Jul 2011

Britain is on the brink of the “biggest nuclear renaissance since the 1950s”, the Government has claimed, despite fears over the recent disaster in Japan and questions over radioactive waste.

Sellafield Nuclear power plant in Cumbria

Days after Germany announced it was going nuclear-free, Charles Hendry, the Energy Minister, said the UK will build a new generation of power stations.

He said that the eight sites earmarked for new reactors will could offer 5,000 jobs, as well as supplying a cheap form of low carbon electricity as coal-fired power stations close down.

Addressing a nuclear industry association conference in London, he will also hit back at criticism that Government officials conferred with the nuclear industry over how to deal with the public relations fall-out from the crisis at Japan’s tsunami-hit Fukushima reactor.

According to emails released under Freedom of Information, one official warned the disaster threatened to “set the nuclear industry back globally” and said it was vital not to let anti-nuclear campaigners use it to gain a publicity coup.

There is also renewed concern about nuclear following an explosion at a French nuclear power station. The blaze at the Tricastin plant in Drôme in the Rhône valley came just two days after the authorities found 32 safety concerns at the plant.

In his speech, which comes after the Government confirmed eight sites where new nuclear plants could be developed adjacent to existing reactors, he will say the reaction to Fukushima was “sensible, proportionate and based on the facts”.

He will tell the industry: “I want people inside and outside of this room to be in no doubt – the Government’s response during and after Fukushima has been based on solid evidence and the advice of the chief nuclear inspector.”

He will also say: “The UK has everything to gain from becoming the number-one destination to invest in new nuclear.

“Nuclear is the cheapest low-carbon source of electricity around, so it can keep bills down and the lights on.

“The wider economic benefit cannot be over-emphasised – around 5,000 jobs could be on offer at each of the eight sites we listed as suitable for development, and as we develop a domestic supply chain, all parts of the country could gain from a nuclear resurgence.”

He will add: “We are on the brink of the biggest nuclear renaissance since the 1950s.

“The 16 gigawatts of new nuclear generation planned by industry equates to investment of around £50 billion with the construction of each reactor delivering investment equivalent to that for the 2012 Olympics.”

The coalition Government is backing a new generation of nuclear power, despite previous Liberal Democrat opposition to the technology, with ministers insisting it will not be subsidised by tax-payers.

But the Government has been accused of bringing in hidden subsidies, for example in proposals to reform the electricity market which could favour nuclear but not other forms of low-carbon energy such as renewables.

Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change minister, faces a rebellion from his own party over the issue.

A large group of backbenchers are gearing up to rebel against a key section of the government’s finance bill which focuses on the so called ‘hidden subsidies’ like the carbon floor price.

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Posted in: UK