By Peter Wozniak
Britain will get eight new nuclear power stations by 2025, Chris Huhne has announced.
The energy secretary - whose party is traditionally opposed to any increase in nuclear energy - argued that nuclear energy must become part of the UK's energy solution in order to meet carbon emission targets.
Mr Huhne also announced investment in wind farms and domestic solar power, but dismissed the deployment of a tidal station in the Severn estuary, citing unworkable costs and environmental impacts.
The Liberal Democrats have previously campaigned vigorously against the expansion of nuclear power, an attitude which has apparently become another victim of the realities of coalition government.
In order to placate the party, the new stations will be built not with public money but with private investment.
However, the government is taking on the liabilities for potential accidents and, crucially, the disposal of radioactive waste should the companies go bust.
The decommissioning costs may also be borne by the taxpayer, though companies will be asked to pay into a 'decommissioning fund'.
Mr Huhne argued that the changes were necessary in the long-run given the 'drying up' of other energy sources.
"I'm fed up with the stand-off between advocates of renewables and of nuclear which means we have neither. We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK," he said.
"We'll need renewables, new nuclear, fossil fuels with CCS, and the cables to hook them all up to the grid as a large slice of our current generating capacity shuts down."
The about-turn in Lib Dem policy follows hot on the heels of the sacrifice of the policy aim to abolish tuition fees, which caused significant discontent in the party.