by Jerome a Paris
Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:23:07 AM EST
Green light to new fleet of N-reactors
Tony Blair's determination to restart Britain's nuclear energy programme has never been in doubt. Even so, his comments on the issue in last night's speech to the CBI employers' organisation were highly significant.
For this will be seen as the moment when the prime minister finally pushed the button on the long-awaited decision to relaunch a new fleet of nuclear reactors.
His commitment - pre-empting the release of the results of the forthcoming energy review - triggered immediate anger from environmental groups.
"Increasingly it looks like the energy consultation has been a complete sham," said Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth. (...)
From the diaries, with format edit ~ whataboutbob
First, Mr Blair believes that without a renewal of the nuclear programme, it will not be possible to meet the UK's targets for the reduction in carbon emissions.
"There is a range of difficulties - technical ones - that make it impossible to meet those targets through the use of renewable energy, such as wind power," said one close ally. "People are in favour of wind power but then they resist the idea of technology being put in their area."
Second, there is energy security. If policy remains unchanged, Mr Blair argues, the UK will see a gradual scaling back in power generated from the nuclear sector. But that will also coincide with increasing reliance on foreign imports of gas as domestic gas production declines.
More from this other article:
Blair says new nuclear plants are essential
Anticipating the results of an energy review to be published by his government in the next few months, the prime minister left no doubt that Britain's ageing nuclear reactors would be replaced.
If Mr Blair carries the day, it would mean that nuclear power would continue to provide at least 20 per cent of the UK's total energy needs in 2025.
Mr Blair told the CBI, Britain's employer organisation, that he had this week received an early draft of the energy review. He said the implications of the report - for Britain's climate change targets and energy security - were stark.
"By 2025, if current policy is unchanged, there will be a dramatic gap on our targets to reduce CO2 emissions," he said. "We will become heavily dependent on gas and, at the same time, move from being 80-90 per cent self-reliant in gas to 80-90 per cent dependent on foreign imports - mostly from the Middle East, and Africa and Russia."
Mr Blair said: "These facts put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables and a step change on energy efficiency - engaging both business and consumers - back on the agenda with a vengeance."
The prime minister has been indicating privately for some time that the energy review - and a subsequent white paper - would give the go-ahead to the nuclear programme. Tuesday night's comments, coming just weeks before the review is published, now put the review's conclusions beyond doubt.
Mr Blair's decision to give a foretaste of the review's conclusions is part of a new effort on his part to show that his government has a strong policy agenda.
The commitment to wind seems contradictory: publicly favorable, but privately skeptical seems the message.
But that's the political reality: however strange that may be, nuclear is less controversial than wind - maybe because opponents to wind do not appear to be kooky leftists and are taken more seriously than they should?