In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Tim Eggar, Minister for Energy, announced that the Department of Trade and Industry was seeking public comments by the end of September on the prospects for nuclear power and the economic and commercial viability of new nuclear power stations. The Government will also be considering ways of building nuclear power stations using private money but stopping short of full privatisation.
In a separate statement, John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, announced that, in parallel, there would be a comprehensive reassessment of the Government's policy towards nuclear waste disposal. The nuclear industry welcomed the announcements.
Mr Eggar's statement contained hints that a decision on the future of nuclear power may not depend solely on economic criteria. He asked for views 'on whether new nuclear power stations offer particular diversity, security of supply and environmental benefits or disadvantages'.
The review was promised in 1989 when, on the eve of electricity privatisation, it became clear that there was no money to finance the liabilities for knocking down old nuclear power stations and disposing of nuclear waste. The costs were so enormous that nuclear power had to be pulled out of privatisation and John Wakeham, the energy secretary at the time, put a moratorium on the construction of any new nuclear power station until the situation had been reassessed.
Nuclear Electric will start operating its Sizewell B pressurised water reactor before the end of the year, but the company believes its future hangs on getting government permission and private finance to build a successor twin-reactor station, Sizewell C. It cannot do so unless the review finds in its favour.
It is expected that the reviews will be completed before the end of the year.Reuse content