CABINET GIVES FULL SUPPORT FOR NEW ATOMIC ERA
BY MATTHEW GEORGE, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, Western Daily Press, 9 January 2008
The Cabinet yesterday rubber-stamped plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations, with one almost certain to be built in the West.
The move came two days before an official announcement was due to be made and was revealed by the Prime Minster's official spokesman.
Nuclear and energy issues had been the main items on the agenda at yesterday's cabinet meeting and there had been a very good discussion with many interventions from members of the cabinet, the spokesman added.
The comments reinforced predictions that Business Secretary John Hutton would give the go- ahead to new nuclear power stations when he makes an eagerly awaited statement on energy policy to parliament tomorrow.
Gordon Brown is known to support the nuclear option as part of the move away from damaging and expensive fossil fuels.
The spokesman also said any firms that built the new power stations would be expected to fund their eventual decommissioning costs in full.
But the announcement was immediately met with universal dismay by environmentalists.
Greenpeace claimed a decision in favour of nuclear power would be unlawful, largely because people were given flawed information in the second consultation and because there was still no plan for radioactive waste.
A spokesman for the organisation said: "There is a lie at the heart of the Government's coming announcement on nuclear power. Ministers' own research found that even 10 new reactors would only cut the UK 's carbon emissions by about four per cent some time after 2025. And the so-called energy gap will open before new nuclear power stations can be built."
And it is almost certain that Hinkley in Somerset will be have a new nuclear power station.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary and North Avon MP Steve Webb said: "This is a flawed decision based on a sham consultation. There is a real risk that focusing on new nuclear plants will undermine attempts to find a cleaner, greener, more sustainable and secure solution.
"We should be concentrating our efforts on renewables and greater energy conservation. Ministers should also be promoting and supporting carbon capture and storage as a safe, secure and flexible way of plugging the energy gap."
Jim Duffy, spokesman for the Stop Hinkley group said: "Even if an order were placed today there would be no new nuclear electricity before 2020, therefore not helping with the forecast energy gap.
"A Hinkley C cannot be built before 2020, even with new, undemocratic planning laws, so how can it help the energy gap expected by 2015?
"Nor would it help with climate change as the Government predicted a whole fleet of reactors would save just four per cent of our carbon emissions. The difficult decision Gordon Brown is forcing on us is also the wrong one."
At his monthly press conference the Prime Minister sympathised with beleaguered First Great Western passengers, and declined to be drawn on when the next General Election would be.
He held the press conference at 10 Downing Street within minutes of the cabinet finally concluding the decade-long process of allowing more nuclear power.
He also hinted tomorrow's announcement would take in renewable energy, including off- and onshore wind power, and the use of wave and tidal power, such as the Severn Barrage.
Although the Government will not put a number on how many new nuclear power stations there will be they are likely to be at existing sites, including Hinkley Point.