Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nick Clegg: Britain's proposed nuclear plants may not be built

The next generation of nuclear power stations may never be built because they will be too expensive following the Japanese tsunami, Nick Clegg has suggested.

The Deputy Prime Minister cast doubt on the future for nuclear power by predicting that a review into existing plants – ordered after the explosion at the Fukushima power station — would recommend higher and more costly safety standards.

The Liberal Democrat leader insisted that no extra government money would be found to meet additional costs and suggested that energy firms would struggle to raise investment from the private sector as a result of the Japanese near-meltdown.

His remarks, made in a briefing to journalists on a visit to Mexico, throw into doubt the future of Britain’s energy supply.

The Government has given provisional approval to the building of at least 10 new nuclear reactors, costing around £50 billion each, at eight sites as part of the pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent in coming decades. Experts have cast doubt on the capacity of the oil, gas and coal sectors to fill the energy gap if the 19 existing reactors are not replaced as they age over the next decade.

The Lib Dems had long opposed nuclear power but agreed in Coalition negotiations last year that existing power stations could be renewed as long as no public funds were involved. They demanded that energy firms no longer benefit from generous public subsidies and be self-funding. Now Mr Clegg believes the extra costs of protecting the new plants could prove unsustainable. (read more)