January 2003

Ministers rule out more nuclear power plants

Times Online, January 24, 2003
By Rosemary Bennett, Deputy Political Editor

Original address: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-10-553251,00.html

[Posted 26/01/2003]

MINISTERS have ruled out a new generation of nuclear power stations but agreed to think again if wind farms and solar power fail to keep up with demand.

Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, told a Cabinet committee meeting yesterday that renewable sources of energy were the way forward.

The decision not to replace the country’s ageing nuclear power plants forms the centrepiece of her Energy White Paper, due in the spring. She has argued that Britain has to do more to exploit its rich resources of onshore and offshore winds. New planning laws would also make it easier for more wind farms to be built.

Cabinet members are divided on the need for more nuclear power, but there is no “nuclear champion” at Cabinet level pushing for an immediate commitment to a building programme. Brian Wilson, the Energy Minister, has argued in favour of more nuclear power, but the Treasury is understood to be sceptical about the cost benefits. Tony Blair is thought to agree with Ms Hewitt that more nuclear power stations cannot be ruled out, but other options need to be tested first.

Tough targets on cutting carbon dioxide emissions may force the Government to allow new nuclear power stations.

The Labour Party’s favourite think-tank has urged it to abandon nuclear power because of the threat of terrorism, and predicted that coal power will die out in Britain in ten years. The Institute for Public Policy Research called on the Government to commit itself to increasing renewable energy almost tenfold to 25 per cent of electricity by 2020 when it publishes its Energy White Paper. Its report, The Generation Gap, says that by 2020 many coal-fired powerstations will close because a European clean-air directive will make them too expensive.

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