Nuclear decision set for this summer

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Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, has vowed that the Government will make a definitive decision on whether to build new nuclear reactors this summer.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent on Sunday, just days after launching a fresh energy review, Mr Johnson said that a decision would be made after consideration of the review.

The review will last for three months and will report to Mr Johnson and the Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, in April. At the same time the ministers will receive an interim report from the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, which is looking at options on what to do with the UK's nuclear waste. A final report from the committee is due in July.

Mr Johnson said that at around that time a final decision would be made about nuclear reactors. "We need to decide now whether to go down the nuclear route," he said, adding that the decision would depend on "waste and affordability".

In the document setting out the energy review, the Government also warned that there were only enough known recoverable reserves of uranium to last for 50 years. If the expected expansion of nuclear power takes place, these supplies would last for even less time, it said.

The energy review cited the figures on uranium reserves from a report by the World Nuclear Association. It added that there had been little exploration for new deposits of uranium since the mid-1980s and that new mines were planned in Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil and Namibia.

John Large, a nuclear consultant, said uranium reserves would grow as a result. "The extraction technique will improve to get more out. There is plenty left."

Prices of uranium for use in the fuel cycle have rocketed in the past three years, from $10 per pound to $37.