New UK nuclear 'in nation's best interests'

10 October 2007

Today was the last opportunity for the UK public to comment on the government's 'provisional view' that nuclear power should remain a viable option. 

The country's Nuclear Industry Association made its submission today on behalf of its 140 members most of whom would have also offered their own views. The NIA's chief executive, Keith Parker, said "We strongly believe new nuclear is essential to helping to deliver ambitious carbon reduction targets and ensure affordable, stably-priced supply. Nuclear must be part of that solution."

Building a new nuclear plant has never been prohibited by UK law, but would be impractical under old planning procedures and without clear political support, which has been lacking for many years. In 2006 then prime minister Tony Blair said he wished to amend procedures to 'facilitate' new nuclear power in the interests of energy security and climate change concerns. Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, holds the same view.

The last plant to be built in the country was the Sizewell B pressurized water reactor, commissioned in 1995. If no new nuclear power plants are built before 2023 it will be the last in operation with some 32 retired gas-cooled units at various stages of decommissioning. Since 1956 nuclear power has provided up to 25% of UK electricity, the figure today is 19%.

In addition, several large coal-fired power stations are to be shut down on environmental grounds. In all, about one third of the UK's power plants need to be replaced, with supplies expected to fall short from around 2016. The NIA, as well as the generating companies that want to build like EdF and EOn say a new UK nuclear plant could operate by 2017.

Parker concluded his statement by saying, "Nuclear is low-carbon and helps maintain diversity, and hence security of the UK's electricity supply. We firmly believe this is in the nation's best interests."

New streamlined planning processes for all power plants, and improved methods for licensing nuclear plants were proposed in the energy white paper of 23 May, together with the separate consultation on it and the subject of nuclear power. The consultation was the second in a series, the first having been challenged by Greenpeace and subsequently ruled to be flawed.

The government is expected to respond to the public comments before the end of the year.

Further information

Nuclear Industry Association

WNA's Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom information paper

WNN: "Practical but radical" UK energy policies