Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blair says energy prices trump nuclear worries

Reuters is reporting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is standing by his position that nuclear energy must be a part of Britain's future energy strategy.

Responding to questions in Parliament on June 14, Blair said that rising energy prices, as well as concerns about global climate change and energy independence, mean that new nuclear power development will be part of his new energy policy.

Blair plans to announce the findings of an energy-policy review his government has been conducting since last year. The review will mark the first major energy-policy statement from Blair since a 2003 paper that raised concerns about nuclear economics and high-level radioactive waste disposal.

News that Blair is determined to keep nuclear power in the mix continues to confound some British policymakers and environmentalists, including a few of Blair's own advisors. The Scotsman reported on June 14 that the government's Environment Agency believes the energy review is "biased towards the nuclear options."

Most of Blair's recent comments about nuclear power over the past year have focused on the technology's potential to mitigate global warming. But in recent weeks, Blair has cited high energy prices as being the determining factor.

On May 17, he told the Confederation of British Industry that high prices and reliance on oil and gas suppliers in turbulent regions make both nuclear and renewables essential. "These facts put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables, and a step-change on energy efficiency...back on the agenda with a vengeance."

He echoed this theme in his comments to Parliament today: "I certainly can tell you what has changed [since the 2003 report]...Energy prices are rising the entire time, which is the whole issue to do with nuclear energy is back on the agenda -- not just for this country, but in many other countries around the world."


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