Deal done to keep UK nuclear new-build alive

12 May 2010

The new political ruling coalition in the UK has announced its support for some amount of nuclear new-build, despite the fact that the minority member is antinuclear. The coalition also agreed to implement a floor price for carbon in the European emissions trading scheme, which some nuclear utilities have argued is essential to keep nuclear new-build cost-competitive.

In the run-up to the May general election, both major UK parties, Labour and the Conservatives, announced their support for nuclear power.

However, neither won an outright majority in the vote, so the Conservatives entered into an alliance with the third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, which is antinuclear.

A joint statement has devised a compromise that allows new-build to go ahead, although it may be limited to replacement of existing stations, rather than increasing capacity.

The coalition writes:

"Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.

"We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.

This process will involve:

- the government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;

- specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and

-clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence."


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