UK opens nuclear policy framework consultation

3 August 2006

The UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched a consultation as part of its efforts to set out a nuclear policy framework as set out in the recent Energy Policy Review.

The policy framework formalised in a White Paper, would form a material consideration in future nuclear power station planning inquiries. The expectation is that planning inquiries should not consider whether there is a need for nuclear power with any planning inquiry proceeding on the basis that there has been public consultation on the relevant strategic issues

The 2006 Energy Review favoured the role of nuclear generation concluding: “Nuclear power is a source of low carbon generation which contributes to the diversity of our energy supplies. Under likely scenarios for gas and carbon prices, new nuclear power stations would yield economic benefits in terms of carbon reduction and security of supply. Government considers that nuclear has a role to play in the future UK generating mix alongside other low carbon generating options.”

Having reached this position the government has developed a proposal for a policy framework (including a nuclear “statement of need”) in which national strategic and regulatory issues are most appropriately discussed through processes other than the planning inquiry.

The deadline for responses is 31 October 2006.

The consultation comes as Malcolm Keay of the UK think tank the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies argues that the latest attempt at a coherent energy policy contains few specific proposals and does not resolve the underlying problem of how to achieve important policy objectives in a liberalised market.

“There is less to the White Paper than meets the eye; rather than settling future policy directions, it sets out a series of consultations, aspirations and good intentions, which may or may not come to fruition,” said Keay adding: “Perhaps the greatest hole in the White Paper is in relation to nuclear.”

Keay points out considerable uncertainties over the economics of nuclear generation in relation to both the costs of fossil fuels and the carbon cost, together with significant political uncertainty.

Further details on the consultation are available on the Energy Review website:

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