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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
Nuclear power plants get go-ahead
Electricity pylons near Sizewell Nuclear Power stations
Nuclear power to make "significant contribution"
The go-ahead has been given for a new wave of UK nuclear power stations.

Industry secretary Alistair Darling told MPs nuclear power needed to be part of the mix of energy supply for the UK over the next 40 years.

The Conservatives say nuclear power should only be a "last resort". The Liberal Democrats accuse ministers of "surrendering" to the nuclear lobby.

Tony Blair says new nuclear power stations will reduce future reliance on imports and help tackle climate change.


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In a Commons statement on the Energy Review, Mr Darling said: "The government has concluded that new nuclear power stations could make a significant contribution to meeting our energy policy goals.

"It would be for the private sector to initiate, fund, construct and operate new nuclear plants and cover the costs of decommissioning and their full share of long term waste management costs."

"Safety and security" would be "paramount" with nuclear plants, he promised.

"Nuclear does mean we can generate electricity without carbon emissions. It does provide a consistency of energy which wind power cannot," he said.

Mr Darling stressed that "a mix of energy supply is essential and we should not be over dependent on one source".

The plans would help meet the government's target of cutting carbon emissions by 60% by 2050, he said.

And they would ensure the UK had secure energy supplies rather than relying increasingly on foreign gas imports.

The review also proposes:

  • That electricity companies provide 20% of energy from renewables - up from the current 15%

  • Storing carbon dioxide in old oil fields - the UK is working with Norway to develop this

  • New incentives to make homes more energy efficient and to cut energy waste by businesses

  • Measures to cut the 7% of electricity currently used by domestic appliances left on standby

  • Encouraging smaller scale electricity generators, and combined heat and power plants, to be sited close to where the power is used

For the Conservatives, shadow trade and industry secretary Alan Duncan said Mr Darling's statement contained "no real policies, no real action, no real decisions".

He said the review showed Mr Blair was "out on a limb" in his backing for new nuclear power stations - a position, he claimed, that was not shared by the Cabinet.

Fresh look

Edward Davey, the Lib Dems' trade and industry spokesman, warned: "By caving into the nuclear industry lobby, you have destroyed the possibility of cross-party consensus."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said it was "a colossal mistake" to head down the nuclear path again.

"We need a solution to the climate change that protects the environment rather than threatens it, and one that does not literally cost the earth," said Mr Livingstone.

It's not a question of either/or - it's everything that's got to be done to make a difference
Tony Blair

Green Party Principal Speaker Keith Taylor said: "Alistair Darling has today led the UK down a dirty and dangerous path, that of a fresh round of astronomically expensive nuclear power stations."

An Energy White Paper in 2003 said better efficiency and investment in renewable forms of energy was the way ahead for the UK.

But the prime minister ordered a policy review last November, saying a fresh look was needed at how the UK could ensure it had a secure energy supply and meet its targets for fighting global warming.

The review has been criticised for purely "rubber stamping" Mr Blair's own wish for developing nuclear.

How nuclear power works

But the prime minister told BBC Two's Newsnight: "If we're going to go from being self-sufficient in gas to importing it, if prices are rising, if we know that climate change is an even more serious problem than we thought a few years ago, how can we take nuclear out of the mix?"

During a visit to an offshore wind farm near Whitstable, Kent, Mr Blair said he wanted to see renewables grow by five times in the next 15 years.

"It's not a question of either/or - it's everything that's got to be done to make a difference," he said.

Nuclear will cost us billions of pounds that can be better spent on a massive nationwide renewables program.
Rob, London

As well as opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the nuclear power proposals have also come under fire from a number of Labour MPs.

Former environment minister Michael Meacher asked: "Why are we going down the nuclear route at all? Nuclear is more expensive and decommissioning costs are enormous."

Members of SERA, the Labour environment campaign, said nuclear power could not contribute to tackling climate change over the next 10 years.

The options to meet the UK's energy needs


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