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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nuclear and coal plants 'vital' to UK energy future

John Hutton, the Business Secretary, vowed yesterday to take on critics of new coal and nuclear power stations, arguing that their construction was vital to securing Britain's long-term energy needs.

Addressing the Labour Party Conference in Manchester, he said that an international battle for energy security was emerging as one of the most significant threats to both Britain's competitiveness and its sovereignty. He said that the country's growing reliance on imported gas from some of the world's most unstable regions was unacceptable and he called for a renaissance of nuclear power.

Mr Hutton, speaking before the expected announcement of a £12.4 billion takeover of British Energy by EDF tomorrow, said that he was

“determined to press all the buttons to get nuclear built in this country at the earliest opportunity ... And because energy security is a first thought, not an afterthought, I will not turn my back on another critical source of energy security for the UK - coal.”

He lambasted opponents of both fuels, including environmental campaigners and other political parties, which he said were “posturing” over energy policy. “Tories say ‘no' to new coal and send mixed messages on nuclear; Lib Dems say ‘no' to new coal and nuclear. No coal plus no nuclear equals no lights. No power. No future.”

The Business Secretary accepted that people had concerns about the contribution that new coal-fired power stations would make to climate change, but he argued that British emissions were capped by European Union legislation and that building new coal plants would make no difference overall.

“Additional emissions will have to be offset by reductions elsewhere,” he said, “so stopping the building of new coal-fired power stations would make no difference to the UK's total carbon emissions - but I think it would damage our energy security. So there is no sense in our turning our backs on coal. Let's keep cleaning it up, not ruling it out.”

Mr Hutton's remarks were condemned by John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, who said that new coal-fired power stations could not be an option because of their huge contribution to climate change.

Mr Hutton's speech came as Westinghouse, the Japanese-owned nuclear reactor maker, published research claiming the British economy could receive a £30billion boost from the construction of new stations, including the creation of thousands of skilled engineering jobs.

David Powell, Westinghouse's UK vice-president, said that half of the total would come through the construction of new sites, a third from operating the plants and the rest from servicing.

The EDF takeover of British Energy will mean that the bulk of Britain's nuclear industry will pass into the hands of the French state-controlled utility giant. EDF has lifted its initial offer of 765p a share to 774p. It wants to use its acquisition of British Energy to oversee construction of four nuclear plants on existing UK sites.

(Source: Times Online)


Anonymous said...

The Labour party of the UK is really winning me over to their side. I like Minister Hutton's saying "No coal plus no nuclear equals no lights. No power. No future.” It sounds like something one of the pro-energy bloggers like me would say.


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Would be crazy from their side to demand a lightless future for the UK :)