Hutton courts nuclear investors

Business secretary John Hutton says he will “press all the buttons” in his effort to secure nuclear investment for Britain.

Speaking at a government-organised nuclear development forum, he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to nuclear energy and its desire to achieve £20 billion of investment from the private sector.

“We’re facing stiff competition for this investment and for the equipment we’ll need to build these power stations which is why I’m determined to ensure Britain remains a competitive environment for nuclear investment,” he said.

“I know many manufacturers across the country already have the skills and expertise needed to build power stations – but more needs to be done to create and support a globally competitive UK supply chain, focussing on high-value added activities to take advantage of the UK and global nuclear renaissance.”

Today’s forum will see stakeholders advise the government’s new Office of Nuclear Investment, as negotiations continue over the sale of British Energy to French nuclear firm EDF Energy.

The government owns a 35 per cent stake in British Energy and Mr Hutton will have been hoping to make a positive announcement about its sale before the Labour party conference.

That now seems unlikely as EDF reportedly refuses to up its £12 billion offer, but new nuclear power stations for the UK remain Mr Hutton’s vision with the creation of 100,000 new jobs as a result.

Not all are convinced. The Green party’s deputy leader, Adrian Ramsay, responded to today’s speech by describing the government’s nuclear plans as “unworkable”.

“This government’s obsession with smoothing the way for nuclear power is a huge distraction from the action we need to create a truly future-proof economy,” he said.

“Their plans are unworkable: focused on the needs of one industry, not on the interests of the UK economy as whole.”