A huge expansion of nuclear power was signalled by the Government today as it named 10 sites where new power stations could be built.
The first is set to be operational by 2018 and, by 2025, nuclear electricity generation could amount to around 40% of new energy provision.
Nine of the new sites are in England, including three in Cumbria, with the 10th in Anglesey, North Wales.
Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband also set out an "ambitious" new policy for the transition to clean-coal generation, as well as confirming targets for generating 30 per cent of electricity by renewable sources by 2020.
The announcements were coupled with moves aimed at speeding up planning decisions on new energy projects aimed at cutting decisions to one year.
Mr Miliband said significantly more generating capacity was needed in the long term to meet the UK's low-carbon energy challenge, partly because of the intermittency of wind generation.
One third of future generating capacity must be given consent and built by 2025, said the minister, adding: "While there are already proposals to build more energy infrastructure, more is needed to bring about the shift to a low-carbon future."
Mr Miliband said a series of policy statements published by the Government today included a clear direction towards a "massive expansion" in renewables, a new nuclear programme based around 10 sites, as well as moves to introduce clean-coal technology.
The 10 sites named today are at Braystones, Sellafield and Kirksanton, all in Cumbria, Heysham in Lancashire, Hartlepool, Co Durham, Sizewell in Suffolk, Bradwell in Essex, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Anglesey.
An 11th site was put forward earlier this year by energy companies as a possible location for a new nuclear power station, but the Government announced today that the site at Dungeness in Kent had not been included in today's list because of concerns about coastal erosion and flood risk.
Three other potential sites were also looked at, but they were found not to be suitable.
These sites were at Druridge Bay in Northumberland, Kingsnorth in Kent and Owston Ferry in South Yorkshire.
Mr Miliband said: "The threat of climate change means we need to make a transition from a system that relies heavily on high-carbon fossil fuels to a radically different system that includes nuclear, renewable and clean-coal power.
"Change is also needed for energy security.
"In a world where our North Sea reserves are declining, a more diverse, low-carbon energy mix is a more secure energy mix, less vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of any one fuel."
Mr Miliband said the current planning system was a "barrier" to this shift in emphasis, maintaining that it served neither the interests of energy security nor of people living in areas where new stations might be built.
"That is why we are undertaking fundamental reform of the planning system, which will result in a more efficient, transparent and accessible process."
Mr Miliband said a faster planning system would save UK industry up to £300 million a year in "unnecessary expense".
Housing and planning minister John Healey said: "Instead of major projects going through three, four or five separate applications, there is now one single consent system, with one full expert and public examination."
Mr Miliband added that he was setting out the most "environmentally ambitious" set of coal conditions for new stations of any country in the world.
"No new coal plants will be given consent unless they can use carbon capture and storage.
"A programme of up to four projects will be funded and the demonstration plants should be in use by 2025."
Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace's nuclear campaign, said: "Miliband can name as many sites as he likes for new nuclear power stations, but the fact remains that the figures simply don't add up.
"Even the Thatcher government realised this. It was exactly 20 years ago to the day that they pulled nuclear plants from the energy privatisation scheme when they realised that nuclear power was not an attractive investment for private companies. And it still isn't.
"Our lawyers will be examining this announcement very closely. You can't justify building more nuclear power stations when there is no solution to radioactive waste and when international regulators are saying there are huge uncertainties surrounding the basic safety of new reactor designs."
Matt Thomson of the Royal Town Planning Institute said: "We welcome the publication of the first of the draft National Policy Statements which provide, for the first time, an opportunity for genuine debate on the national need for the various types of infrastructure.
"What is clearly lacking, however, is a national spatial plan which brings together plans for jobs, housing and tackling climate change with those for energy, transport and water.
"Without this, the nation cannot be certain that it will get the right infrastructure in the right place, and without which the Government will fail to address the real national needs in a locally sensitive way."
The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities said they were "dismayed" with the announcement, describing it as a "missed opportunity" in developing more sustainable renewable energy alternatives.
Chairman Bailie George Regan said: "It is disappointing that the Government has decided to go ahead with a new generation of nuclear power stations. Renewable energy is an obvious and safer alternative and being developed successfully and to required quantities in Ireland and in Scotland.
"The NFLA will provide a detailed critique in our response to Government and urge all councils to do likewise, particularly in challenging the new, undemocratic planning process for new nuclear build."
Kate Hudson, chairwoman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "Nuclear power is dirty, dangerous and expensive. It is not the answer to climate change or concerns over energy security.
"Steamrollering planning decisions through an unelected and unaccountable quango is no way for a democracy to make such significant national decisions. Local concerns look set to be marginalised, with the ability for local communities to question important safety aspects of reactors swept away.
"It is totally unacceptable for Ed Miliband to see a 'relatively good' safety record as sufficient - nuclear disasters have the potential to make any other kind of industrial accident look harmless in comparison, potentially affecting millions of people."
The RWE npower/E.ON nuclear joint venture, to be known as Horizon Nuclear Power, welcomed the Government's announcement.
The joint venture has already bought land at Oldbury-upon-Severn in Gloucestershire and at Wylfa on Anglesey, announcing plans to invest over £15 billion in nuclear capacity, creating over 11,000 jobs in construction and operation.
Chief Operating Officer Alan Raymant said: "It's absolutely vital that the importance of new nuclear power stations is recognised in bringing investment and jobs to the UK and, most importantly, the role that it has to play in the battle against climate change.
"The Government's statement is an important step in the creation of a more streamlined planning regime and we're delighted that our plans for Wylfa and Oldbury have been recognised as excellent sites for development
RWE npower said it will shortly submit a planning application for what will be the UK's biggest carbon capture pilot project connected to a working power station.
If approved, the plant will be constructed at the company's 1,500MW coal-fired power plant at Aberthaw in South Wales and will be capable of testing the capture process on emissions direct from the power station.
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce said: "British business is clear that nuclear power will be a crucial part of a more sustainable future energy mix. A faster, more streamlined planning process is also required to safeguard the UK's energy supply in the decades to come.
"This announcement is a positive step forward and should speed up the construction of badly needed new capacity. What's more, it could create a substantial number of jobs."
Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB union said: "This is an important announcement and it is welcome. However, we need to face up to the fact that we are foot-dragging in terms of getting on with building these nuclear power stations. It is a fact that the economic framework to enable these power stations to be built is not yet in place.
"Any economic framework will require guaranteed pricing which will need either consumers to pay higher prices or the tax payers to subsidise the returns to the operators."
John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, said: "The UK needs the right mix of energy sources to bolster security and cut emissions. These planning statements will help reassure companies that the Government has a clear strategy for delivering new nuclear power, clean coal and renewable energy plants, and that this will be reflected in planning decisions."
Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors said: "Planning delays to large infrastructure projects are damaging to competitiveness and to economic prosperity. The failure to take prompt decisions has condemned the UK to prolonged reliance on inadequate facilities, while the associated uncertainty has blighted other attempts to improve the state of the energy and transport infrastructure."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "This shows that the Government is determined to take the necessary action to speed up the shift to a low carbon economy, a move which will create up to half a million new jobs, make the UK less reliant on energy supplies from overseas and bring substantial environmental benefits.
"The news that several new nuclear power stations are to get the go-ahead will create many new job opportunities and a more streamlined planning process will avoid lengthy delays."
Gaynor Hartnell, director of policy at the Renewable Energy Association said: ""We welcome the speeding up of decisions on transmission lines, but the National Policy Statements won't make much difference when it comes to renewable power projects.
"Local authorities will still determine the vast majority of project decisions, and that regime is crying out to be made more consistent and efficient."
Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement, said: "Ed Miliband has shattered the UK's credibility at the Copenhagen summit by going ahead with disastrous plans for new coal.
"His decision to allow new dirty coal power stations to be built will see increasing emissions long into the future. He has acknowledged that carbon capture technology may not work, but nonetheless hasn't introduced a safety net to protect the climate if this unproven technology fails.
"Furthermore, he's done nothing to shut down old coal plants which can continue to pollute for decades to come. This policy flies in the face of recommendations from the Government's own climate advisers."Reuse content