Energy Secretary Chris Huhne

EDF executive says Britain still needs nuclear power

The crisis in Japan has not changed Britain’s need for nuclear power, according to EDF chief exec Vincent de Rivaz.

Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, said that while it was important to take on board lessons from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the “critical task” for British energy suppliers was to “deliver a secure, clean and affordable energy mix”.

“While we understand the importance of adjusting the timetable to take into account the NII (Nuclear Installations Inspectorate) report, it is also equally important that establishing the framework for new nuclear should not be subject to undue delay,” he said.

“We should not at this stage make snap decisions about existing nuclear power stations until all the facts are known. Nor should we reach hasty decisions about nuclear new build.”

Mr de Rivaz made the comments at the Nuclear Development Forum, also attended by Energy and Climate Change secretary Chris Huhne, Energy minister Charles Hendry and UK’s Chief Nuclear Inspector Mike Weightman.

Mr Huhne said he had asked Dr Weightman for an interim report by mid May 2011 and a final report within six months so that the implications for the UK’s nuclear industry were clear.

“The tragic events in Japan are still unfolding and we should not rush to judgment - it is important that we have the full facts at our disposal,” he said.

“Safety is and will continue to be the number one priority for existing nuclear sites and for any new power stations. I want to ensure that any lessons learned from Mike Weightman’s report are applied to the UK’s new build programme.”

Mr de Rivaz said that EDF’s board had recently held an extraordinary meeting where they set in place an immediate action plan, including immediate checks of back up systems, refresher training for employees, and a review of the company’s emergency plan.

With “Safety-First” being an integral part of the company’s ethos there will also be new formal arrangements to ensure that lessons from Japan would be fed into the company’s safety processes, he added.

Dr Weightman said: “We must establish the facts on these unprecedented events and determine if there are lessons to be learned for the UK, to add to our very robust safety standards and arrangements.

“My report will be public, independent, evidence based, comprehensive, wide in scope and based on the best technical advice, consulting nationally and internationally with colleagues and organisations who, like us, have the safety and security of people and society uppermost in our minds.”

Mr Huhne added that the government would consider the Nuclear National Policy Statement in light of the emerging nuclear crisis in Japan before proceeding with the ratification process.

Mr de Rivaz also spoke of the importance of electricity market reform in the UK, with EDF and its co-investor Centrica expecting to take their final investment decision on UK new build early in 2012.

“Government, industry and regulators all have a joint role to play in providing leadership and clear communication over the coming weeks and months,” he said.

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