Saturday, June 23, 2007

UK government closes books on nuclear energy

Full steam ahead for greenhouse gases

The powers that be in the UK government must believe that nuclear power plants are hugely profitable and have no trouble convincing investors to put up billions for as long as five-to-eight years before seeing a return.

Even more interesting is the view by the British government that loan guarantees and other financial confidence building measures are not needed to get investors to come to the table.

Finally, despite a clear acknowledgement that nuclear power plants will help reduce greenhouse gases, the UK government would rather let its citizens become crispy critters than open its checkbook to deal with the problem.

It looks to me like the Brits have been talking to their US counterparts on the House Appropriations Committee which killed off all prospects for federal loan guarantees to new nuclear power plants. Action is still pending in the Senate, but don't hold your breath any longer than you can say "biofuels are made from corn in farm states."

Back on the other side of the pond investors who want to build a nuclear power plant in the UK are on their own according to that country's Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling. Retuers reports the government will not subsidise new nuclear power plants. If the private sector does not provide the huge investments needed, the country will have to do without, the minister responsible for energy said on this week.

The Labour government sees nuclear power as one of the most effective weapons in the fight against climate change and in efforts to reduce the country's growing dependence on imported fossil fuels. But that does not mean it will pay for or build nuclear plants.

"The government is not going to build a single nuclear power station," Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling told a committee of members of parliament.

"We are not going to contribute to the cost of it," he said, rejecting suggestions the government might have to give money to get companies to make the multi-billion pound investments.
"If the energy generators don't want to build them, then there won't be any," he said.

Apparently, Darling's abrupt comments haven't deterred at least one nuclear plant vendor from wanting to do business in the UK. Thomson Financial reports GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between General Electric Co and Hitachi Ltd, said it has submitted its ESBWR reactor design for assessment by UK regulators. Who knows? Maybe Darling is on to something and the plants will get built despite the government's position.

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