Business told to make economic case for new nuclear reactors

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The Independent Online

The Government has challenged the nuclear industry to come up with economically viable proposals for building new power stations.

The Government has challenged the nuclear industry to come up with economically viable proposals for building new power stations.

Mike O'Brien, the energy minister, told The Independent on Sunday that it was up to the private sector to prove that nuclear power was economic.

He added that the Government would look at "commercially serious propositions", whether they were from UK or foreign nuclear companies.

In last year's energy White Paper, the Government favoured renewable forms of energy such as wind power over nuclear stations, most of which will be decommissioned in the next 15 years. But it added: "We do not rule out the possibility that at some point in the future new nuclear build might be necessary if we are to meet our carbon targets". Nuclear power, like renewable energy, does not emit carbons.

Mr O'Brien said that nuclear generation must first be proved to be economic before it can return to the policy agenda.

British Energy, the privatised nuclear generator, was rescued from administration by the Government two years ago. Sellafield operator BNFL is still loss-making.

"There has been much debate about whether the Government is keeping the nuclear option open," said Mr O'Brien. "But at the moment there is no commercial proposition on the table. We are always getting people saying 'We could do something.' But when we check it, there is nothing there. If we thought that a project was a commercially serious proposition, we would look at it."

He said that the issue of how to store existing nuclear waste safely would have to be resolved before new nuclear build becomes realistic.

A year ago, the Government announced details for the second phase of wind farm construction to provide up to 15 per cent of the UK's electricity.

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