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UK May Have to Do Without Nuclear Power - Darling

Date: 22-Jun-07
Country: UK
Author: Daniel Fineren

The Labour government sees nuclear power as one of the most effective weapons in the fight against climate change and in efforts to reduce the country's growing dependence on imported fossil fuels.

But that does not mean it will pay for or build nuclear plants.

"The government is not going to build a single nuclear power station," Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling told a committee of members of parliament.

"We are not going to contribute to the cost of it," he said, rejecting suggestions the government might have to give money to get companies to make the multi-billion pound investments.

"If the energy generators don't want to build them, then there won't be any," he said.

All of Britain's existing nuclear power plants were paid for and built by the state, but none has been built since Britain privatised its power sector in the 1990s.

Those ageing plants are now nearing the end of their useful lives and most will be closed over the next decade at the same time as Britain battles to cut carbon emissions and reduce its reliance on gas-fired power plants.

Gas-fired plants are cheaper and quicker to build, but produce much higher levels of carbon than nuclear energy.

While the government's refusal to subsidise nuclear energy might please environmentalists, potential investors complain there is still too much political, planning and economic risk to commit to such long-term projects.

After a court challenge from environmentalist group Greenpeace, the government is reviewing its nuclear energy policy and plans to come up with a concrete strategy by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, major European energy consultants Poyry said nuclear power could disappear in Britain because the government failed to give it enough support in last month's Energy White Paper policy document.

Meanwhile, Britain's looming power generation gap -- expected to be as large as 20 gigawatts by 2021 -- will probably be filled by new gas fired power plants, increasing dependence on imports and increasing the Britain's unwilling contribution to global warming.

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