Government urged to act over nuclear power stations

The Government has been criticised for believing that new nuclear power stations will "magically appear" following the official go-ahead for new sites.

A report by the Economic Research Council said only three European utilities - EDF of France or Germany's E.ON and RWE - had the financial strength, and inclination, to take on the risk of building new nuclear sites.

Ministers may have to negotiate directly with these three firms, said the report, which urged the Government to consider issuing a financial indemnity for the accruing debt, similar to the arrangement at Network Rail.

The report's author Nigel Hawkins, a city analyst, said: "Sadly, after 10 years, Britain is still faced with a Government that appears to believe that White Papers - rather than private sector companies - build nuclear plants.

"Until they acknowledge that these companies must be lured by the prospect of earning attractive returns, it is highly unlikely that new nuclear-build in the UK will materialise - and eventually the lights may go out."

The report said the combination of of energy supply and emission reductions pointed increasingly to the need for new nuclear power stations in the European Union before the year 2020.

"Given the scheduled closure of all existing UK nuclear plants, except Sizewell B, by 2023, it is clear that nuclear output will continue to fall in percentage terms unless new nuclear-build is undertaken to replace the retired capacity.

"Against this background, it is hardly surprising that the Government has undertaken a major policy U-turn as it now endorses new nuclear-build. But it will need to become far more pro-active if such plants are ever to reach the commissioning stage in the UK."
A spokesman for the Department for Business said the Government had invited energy companies to bring forward proposals to build new nuclear power stations as part of the UK's future energy mix.

"Although energy companies will be expected to fund, develop and build new nuclear power stations, the Government is already taking action to facilitate this.

"This includes a process to identify the most suitable sites, pre-licensing of suitable reactor designs and streamlining the planning system.

"It is in the national interest that the energy industry is able to invest in secure low-carbon energy sources."

Image: Nuclear power remains a thorny subject for the Government

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