New nuclear plants on track

Chris Huhne today signalled that plans for new nuclear plants in the UK were on track, after a report into the Fukushima disaster found "no need to curtail" the use of reactors in Britain.

Following the interim report on the lessons that could be learned from the nuclear crisis in Japan, the Energy Secretary said he "could see no reason" why the Government's plans for a new generation of reactors could not go ahead.



But environmental groups warned it was too early to draw conclusions from Fukushima, which was badly damaged by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March, and accused Mr Huhne of rushing to judgment on the safety of reactors in UK.



In the Commons today, Mr Huhne told MPs that safety in the industry remained the coalition's "number one priority", admitting the Government's policy had been delayed by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.



The Government is planning a new suite of nuclear reactors on existing sites to maintain electricity supplies and cut greenhouse gas emissions as an old generation of power stations are shut down.



Following the Japanese earthquake, Mr Huhne commissioned nuclear chief inspector Mike Weightman to examine the implications for the UK and the lessons that could be learned from Fukushima.



In initial findings published today, Dr Weightman ruled out the need for the UK to curtail the operation of nuclear power stations in light of the situation in Japan.



Dr Weightman said the possibility of similar natural events, which saw a magnitude 9 earthquake and 14-metre tsunami batter the Japanese coast, were not "credible" in the UK.



He also said existing and planned nuclear power stations in this country were of a different design to those at Fukushima, which were rocked by explosions and damage to the reactors after the tsunami shut down power to the plants, knocking out their cooling facilities.



And flooding risks were unlikely to prevent construction of new nuclear power stations at potential development sites in the UK, all of which are on the coast, he said.



Dr Weightman said there was no need to change the current strategy for siting new nuclear power plants.



But he said lessons could still be learned from the nuclear accident in Japan.



The interim report recommended 25 areas for review by the Government, industry and regulators, to determine if there are any measures which could improve safety in the UK nuclear industry.



The areas flagged for review in the report included considering the dependency of nuclear power plants on infrastructure such as electricity supplies off-site and the loss of power over a long period of time, the layout of sites, flooding and sea level protection and emergency response plans.



The report found no "gaps in scope or depth" in the safety assessment measures for nuclear facilities in the UK, or any "significant weaknesses" in the UK nuclear licensing regime.



It also said there would be considerable scope for lessons about human behaviour in severe accidents that would be useful for enhancing contingency plans and training in the UK for such events.



Dr Weightman said: "The extreme natural events that preceded the accident at Fukushima - the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent huge tsunami - are not credible in the UK.



"We are 1,000 miles from the nearest fault line and we have safeguards in place that protect against even very remote hazards.



"Our operating and proposed future reactor designs and technology are different to the type at the Fukushima plant.



"But we are not complacent."



Mr Huhne said he would consider all 26 recommendations made by Dr Mike Weightman, whose final report will be made in September.



He told MPs: "My officials will review carefully the interim report but from my discussions with Dr Weightman I see no reason why we should not proceed with our current policy, namely that nuclear can be part of the future energy mix as it is today providing that there is no public subsidy."



But Dr Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace warned that the review had essentially said the industry should "go away and think about" safety, which he said many people would regard as complacent and would not inspire confidence in Britain's nuclear regulators.



"Even as the struggle to control Fukushima reactors continues, it appears Huhne has rushed to judgment on safety of reactors to keep the timetable for new nuclear power on track," he added.



Friends of the Earth's head of energy, Mike Childs, said it was too early to draw conclusions from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear accident, and that the UK does not need to gamble with nuclear power to supply its electricity needs.



However industry and unions welcomed the report's findings.



The union Unite, which represents 40,000 workers in energy and utilities, called on the Government to "get on with the job" of creating the right environment for low-carbon energy power, including commissioning the first new build nuclear power station for a generation at Hinkley Point.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform