Blair to unveil 'nuclear option'
Tony Blair is likely to use
a speech to business leaders at the CBI to launch a
review of UK energy policy which could lead to new
nuclear power stations.
Mr Blair is believed to view nuclear power as a way to
improve the security of the UK's energy supply and also
help the UK meet its greenhouse gas targets.
He has also said ministers must make "difficult and
The energy review will be headed by the Energy Minister
Malcolm Wicks and report by the middle of next year.
Business leaders want a decision made quickly, while
green groups want clean and safe alternatives to fossil
The prime minister is expected to announce the terms of
reference for the energy review during his speech to the
Confederation of British Industry annual conference in
Last week Mr Blair said a debate was needed because by
2020 the amount of energy from nuclear power would fall
from just over 20% to 4%, and trying to meet that
shortfall through renewable sources was "going to be
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the prime
minister had been convinced building more nuclear power
stations was the only way to meet the country's energy
needs and stick to the targets on climate change.
Also last week Mr Blair's chief scientific adviser Sir
David King publicly called for the government to give the
green light for new nuclear power stations.
Any moves to do so would provoke strong opposition from
some Labour MPs.
Ex-environment minister Michael Meacher said at prime
minister's questions he preferred a steady increase in
renewable energy, saying nuclear power was expensive, a
terrorist target and produced hazardous waste.
And David Willetts, the shadow trade and industry
secretary, criticised the review's timing.
"A leak from the DTI in May showed that civil
servants were calling on the government to start an
energy review, but it has taken them seven months and an
energy crisis to get things rolling," he said.
Norman Baker, the Lib Dems environment spokesman, said:
"The suspicion must be that Tony Blair has already
decided to advocate an increase in the use of nuclear
power - this review will serve little purpose if the
prime minister has already made up his mind.
He called for an extension of nuclear power to be ruled
out and for the focus to be on cleaner renewable energy.
Environmentalists Friends of the Earth said the
government's energy review should not rubber stamp a new
generation of nuclear power stations.
They argue a programme to reduce electricity waste, be
more efficient with fossil fuels and increase renewable
energy use will help the UK meet its targets for cutting
greenhouse gases while maintaining fuel security.
The group wants to meet Mr Blair to discuss other options
which it says will reduce carbon dioxide levels.
"The UK can meet its targets for tackling climate
change and maintain fuel security by using clean, safe
alternatives that are already available," says Tony
Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth.
"The UK could be a world leader in developing a low-carbon
The debate over nuclear power comes amid the recent sharp
increase in the price of gas, and CBI warnings a possible
energy crisis could reduce Britain to a three-day week
However, Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson
insisted the lights across Britain would not go out this
winter "under any scenario whatsoever".
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