The Liberal Democrats today ditched their historic opposition to nuclear power as activists backed its use in “limited circumstances”.
The vote came after Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, warned the party conference in Glasgow that it would be reckless simply to rely on coal, gas and renewable energy for light and heat.
They also called for tougher restrictions on drilling for shale gas – “fracking” – although some activists urged the leadership to go further and ban it outright.
Party members voted by 230 to 183 in support of the limited use of nuclear power after Mr Davey promised them not to let spending on a potentially expensive form of energy run out of control.
The policy stance, which was supported by Nick Clegg, now looks likely to be included in the Lib Dem manifesto at the general election in 2015.
Mr Davey said: "When I have listened to pro-nuclear Liberal Democrats over the years, there is one argument I have found increasingly difficult to answer and that is the climate change argument.
“Climate change poses a real and massive danger to our planet. Not keeping a genuinely low source of electricity as an option is reckless when we don't know the future.
“We are going to need vast amounts of low carbon electricity to tackle climate change. Why? Because if our carbon capture and storage plans don't work, we may have to replace all fossil fuels for electricity generation, that is about 60 per cent of all generation.
“If we do that without nuclear, you will need to replace about 85 per cent of electricity generation. That’s huge.”
Friends of the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director Craig Bennett said: “Backing for nuclear power punches a huge hole in the Liberal Democrats fast-sinking green credibility.
“Nuclear power comes with massive costs attached. Ed Davey is deluded if he thinks new reactors can go ahead without public subsidy - building them will result in the Liberal Democrats, yet again, breaking their promises.”