Prime minister Tony Blair’s 16 May comments that nuclear power was back on the agenda followed a major reshuffle of his cabinet that has been widely perceived to strengthen the position of nuclear energy at the heart of government.
The most significant move was the shift of former environment secretary and well-known opponent of nuclear generation Margaret Beckett to the role of foreign secretary where she is instead concentrating on suppressing Iran’s nuclear programme. Her departure left the way clear for David Miliband to take over at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Miliband, officially “open-minded” on nuclear, is believed to favour the technology.
Another key cabinet figure, Alan Johnson, the former head of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been replaced by Alastair Darling, who is thought to support Blair’s position. Energy minister Malcolm Wicks is one of only two politicians to remain in their original jobs at the DTI following the reshuffle and retains responsibility for energy issues, including the crucial energy review.
Former minister for climate change, Elliot Morley, was dropped from the cabinet. He reacted to his sacking by criticising nuclear: “No private sector company is going to take on the long-term risks, the cost of decommissioning, the storage, reprocessing and the responsibility for the waste,” he claimed.
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