Areva urges Government to give go-ahead for nuclear reactors

Areva, the state-owned French nuclear reactor company, will add its voice to calls for a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain today, arguing that they could be built without any government subsidy.

In its submission to the Department of Trade and Industry's energy review, Areva says what is needed instead is a signal of support from the Government for a nuclear programme and reform of the planning and regulatory system to reduce delays and streamline the licensing of new nuclear plants.

The company also says there will need to be government policy on how to deal with nuclear waste and further investment in the high-voltage national electricity grid so that a range of different generating capacities, from large nuclear stations to small wind farms, can be connected.

The submission says the economic case for nuclear power does not depend on government financial support for low-carbon technologies. However, it says that if other forms of energy, such as gas and coal, had to pay their own carbon costs, then it would enhance the attractions of nuclear power.

The report quotes figures from a Royal Academy of Engineering study that estimated that new nuclear capacity would be broadly comparable in cost with combined cycle gas-fired stations at 22.6p a unit but cheaper than coal stations and up to a third less expensive if carbon pricing was introduced.

Areva also claims that safety and terrorism is not an issue, arguing that studies in France and the US show that even a direct hit on a nuclear station by a jumbo jet would not lead to a radioactive leak.

In its submission last month, the CBI called on the Government to set out a clear long-term framework for supporting low-carbon sources of energy.

It said the lack of clarity from the Government about how electricity producers will be made to pay for carbon emissions after 2012 is holding back investors from committing the £50bn needed to construct nuclear power stations and other low-carbon generating capacities.

The Government has three months to report back on the main points made in the 2,000-plus responses it received during the consultation period. It will make a statement on energy policy in early summer.