When we started the energy review process we knew that nuclear power would always grab the headlines. But it was encouraging to see that so many people recognised, contrary to the accusations when we began, that this was not a “nuclear review”, but in fact covered a huge range of issues on both the supply and demand side.
Most people also realise there is no simple, single solution to the energy challenges that we and other countries face. We need a balanced approach giving us a low carbon energy mix that is driven by technological advances and increased efficiency.
Key to this approach is encouraging everyone to play their part in delivering greater energy efficiency, producing a higher proportion of energy from renewable sources like wind, wave and solar power and securing reliable energy supplies.
And we have been clear that nuclear power, as a source of low carbon generation, could make a significant contribution to this energy mix.
Nuclear power supplies nearly 20 per cent of electricity now, but over the next few years these plants will come to the end of their lives. Without replacing any of these plants, nuclear’s contribution will fall to just seven per cent by 2020. The result would be a country more dependent on imported gas with carbon emissions increasing, not falling.
New nuclear power stations could make a positive contribution to meeting our carbon reduction and security of supply goal alongside other forms of low carbon generation.
We have been clear that the funding for new nuclear must come from the private sector. Any new nuclear power stations would be proposed, developed, constructed and operated by the private sector, which would meet full decommissioning and their full share of long-term waste management costs.
We have just finished consulting on a policy framework for nuclear that is looking at how we can remove regulatory barriers to the private sector to invest. As part of this consultation we have met with key stakeholders to discuss our review and proposed next steps. A proposed framework will be finalised, in the light of comments received, in an energy white paper next year.
These steps will help us tackle the challenges ahead by guaranteeing a diverse supply of energy, as well as taking serious steps to tackle climate change. This is vital for the country’s future prosperity and the health of our planet.