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Britain opts for nuclear power to plug ‘energy gap’


London : The British Labour government Thursday gave the political go-ahead for the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations which would safeguard energy supplies while meeting the challenges of climate change.

The controversial plan, presented to the parliament in a white paper Thursday, marks a return to greater reliance on atomic power in a country that produced one of the first major anti-nuclear movements in Western Europe.

Private investors would be invited to build the new plants, which are set to replace Britain’s 19 old-fashioned nuclear power stations expected to be phased out by 2035.

Business Secretary John Hutton told parliament that the government was aiming to secure supplies through a “balanced energy mix” that would include a trebling of renewable energy resources by 2015.

The first of the new generation reactors could go on stream before 2020, said Hutton, who argued that the retention of “energy independence” was of “vital national interest”.

Currently, Britain derives 19 percent of its energy needs from nuclear power.

“The government believes it is in the public interest that new nuclear power stations should have a role to play in this country’s future energy mix alongside other low-carbon sources,” Hutton said.

Concurrently, the government published an energy bill signalling greater deployment of renewable energy and increased investment in carbon capture and storage as well as offshore gas infrastructure.

He said that energy companies would be compelled to meet the full costs of decommissioning and their “full share of waste management costs.”

The government’s move has been criticized by environmental campaigners, who have threatened legal action against the plans.