No new nukes, say BNFL

30 July 2001

he announcement of the first comprehensive UK energy review for 20 years (see NEI July 2001, p9) has triggered much speculation of a nuclear revival in the country.

However, although BNFL and British Energy (BE) have been lobbying for a debate on new construction, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that it has not received any proposals for new reactors. A BNFL spokesman has confirmed that BNFL “has no plans to build new nuclear power stations.” And Robin Jeffrey, BE’s new executive chairman (see NEI July 2001, p12) has recently said ministers must decide what is to be done with high level radioactive waste before BE applied to build new nuclear plants. BE’s eight nuclear stations in the UK are due to be phased out between 2011 and 2035, and BNFL’s seven Magnox plants will close over the next decade.

Announcing the energy review, the prime minister, Tony Blair, said he asked the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) to carry out a review of the strategic issues surrounding energy policy for the UK. In a written answer to the Commons, Tony Blair said: “The review will be set within the context of meeting the challenge of global warming while ensuring secure, diverse and reliable energy supplies at a competitive price.” The new minister for industry and energy, Brian Wilson, will chair the advisory group, which will report by the end of the year. Brian Wilson said: “The review will consider the role of coal, gas, oil and renewables in our future energy balance as well as combined heat and power and the enhancement of energy efficiency. The review will also need to consider what, if any, role the nuclear industry should play in meeting the environmental and security of supply objectives.

“There is no predisposition in favour of one form of generation over another, but essentially we want a mix so we are not going to be over-exposed to any energy source.” Environmental groups are concerned that the review would be used to introduce new nuclear stations “through the back door”.
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