Business View: If you want more nukes then do the washing-up first

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You don't have to be all that old to remember when $30 was a lot for a barrel of oil. Now you can't get your Brent crude for much under $55. Experts who predicted that oil prices would drop back into Opec's $22 to $28 range after Iraq settled down are now saying the real long-term price should be around $60.

You don't have to be all that old to remember when $30 was a lot for a barrel of oil. Now you can't get your Brent crude for much under $55. Experts who predicted that oil prices would drop back into Opec's $22 to $28 range after Iraq settled down are now saying the real long-term price should be around $60.

People talk about Chinese demand, Gulf instability, the weak dollar and anything else you think of. The fact is - they don't know. And when you don't know how much a big essential will cost, you should start thinking about trying to make it less essential.

That is why, as soon as the dust has settled after the election, Tony Blair is going to signal a serious nuclear reactor building programme. It has to wait until then because it is politically contentious - although there seem to be an amazing consensus of left and right, business and unions, industry and environmentalists (well, some of them) that this is the right thing to do. As we report on the front page, the nuclear industry and those who want to be part of it are all putting their plans together for a load of new nukes. These can be built much cheaper than they used to be: a new AP 1000 will set you back just $1bn (£520m) - less if you buy in bulk.

But there is a catch. In fact, more than one.

The first - and look how much protest there has been against building wind farms - is planning permission. The public have not bought into having nukes in their back yards in the way they have in Sweden, where municipalities competed for the pleasure. The hope is that new plants can be built on the sites of the old decommissioned ones. This, however, requires the sites to be cleared and cleaned up quickly enough.

This brings us to the second catch. Nuclear reactor builders are like men doing the cooking - bad at washing up after. The Government has spent £58m setting up the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, but a European Commission investigation means it cannot hit the ground running. And still there is no long-term, or even medium-term, answer to how the industry will get rid of nuclear waste. Given that a government commission warned about this in the early 1980s, there really is no excuse.

The nuclear future makes a lot of sense but only if it is sensibly thought through and sensibly budgeted. We have never done this in the UK. Let's not make the same mistakes again.

Gordon is gilty

When they haul Gordon Brown off to jail, you can say you read it here first. For it is clear that the Chancellor has been indulging in a form of insider trading.

Let me explain. There is this thing called a pensions crisis, which I have referred to from time to time. The Treasury is rather worried about this and has been putting pressure on the Financial Services Authority to ensure that pension funds make every effort to marry their assets and liabilities. The City regulator interprets this by putting pressure on pension funds to put more of their money in supposedly safe long-term investments.

This means the City pension funds are looking desperately for some good long-term bonds. But there's not much that gives them the maturity structure they would like. Then, as if by magic, the Chancellor comes up with the brilliant idea of 50-year gilts, which will no doubt be snapped up like discount ice- creams on Brighton beach in August. If only I'd thought of it.

Silence speaks loudest

Anyone who is expecting some dramatic news from Jean-François Theodore, the boss of Euronext, when he presents his group's results on Tuesday will be sorely disappointed.

After the defenestration of Deutsche Börse, Euronext is the only bidder left in the battle for the London Stock Exchange. But it has yet to name a price.

And why should it? No bid can go through until the competition authorities give a green light, and that will not happen for some time yet. The speculation is that Euronext will end up paying 550p a share, versus the LSE's Friday close of 490.5p. But Mr Theodore has done pretty well so far by saying nothing, so it's no time for him to start shooting his mouth off.

j.nisse@independent.co.uk

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