In their submissions to the Performance and Innovation Unit’s (PIU’s) energy policy review, BNFL and British Energy (BE) both called for the government to act to provide a level playing field for nuclear power.

To enable new plants to be built, they said that climate change mechanisms must be modified to recognise that nuclear generation should benefit from the fact that it is the only large-scale generation option that does not emit greenhouse gases.

BE pointed out that all of the UK’s current plants, except Sizewell B, will close by 2023, and proposed a strategy of “replace nuclear with nuclear.” The BE submission mentioned that there have been considerable advances in the design of new plants over recent years. BE believes that the AP1000 and the Candu-NG could be developed in time to meet a programme of commissioning about ten 1000-1200MWe units between 2010 and 2025.

However, “restoring UK profitability will be a pre-requisite to British Energy playing a major role in any future new build programme.” Robin Jeffrey, executive chairman of BE, said it would be “a cost-effective, balanced approach which can achieve the government’s environmental and security of supply priorities at sensible and stable prices.” BE also called for their £300 million-per-year reprocessing contracts with BNFL to be replaced by the US pay-as-you-go arrangements.

BNFL recommended that the government:

• Improved planning and regulatory approval processes.

• Review how long-term electricity supply contracts can be put in place.

• Decide on a radwaste policy.

• Encourage nuclear education, training and R&D.

In anticipation of a new build, BNFL has begun negotiations with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to get approval for the AP600 design.

In its submission to the PIU, the British Nuclear Industry Forum (BNIF) argued that the gradual retirement of the country’s existing nuclear plants “poses serious dangers for the security of energy supply and also jeopardises targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions.” Adrian Ham, BNIF director-general, said: “Britain faces becoming a major importer of both oil and gas over the next decade or two. Government projections indicate that between 55%-90% of UK gas consumption could be imported by 2020. This exposes the UK to considerable risk, particularly when 38% of world reserves are in the Former Soviet Union and a further 35% in the Middle East.” Also providing a submission to the PIU was Sir Christopher Audland, European Commission Director General of Energy at the time of the Chernobyl accident. He said that it was essential for the Government to bring public opinion around, “instead of leaving the field open for a comparatively small number of anti-nuclear activists.” Research by the seven-member committee is reported to have swayed a majority to support the need for more nuclear power. It is understood that includes the Scotland Office minister, George Foulkes, who has a long record in opposing nuclear development.