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UK PM backs more nuclear power

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has given his first firm indication that he backs the roll-out of a new generation of nuclear power stations, both in the UK and in Europe. In a speech given to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), Mr Blair said that he was expecting the...

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has given his first firm indication that he backs the roll-out of a new generation of nuclear power stations, both in the UK and in Europe. In a speech given to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), Mr Blair said that he was expecting the results on a review of British energy policy, but had seen a 'first cut'. 'Essentially the twin pressures of climate change and energy security are raising energy policy to the top of the agenda in the UK and around the world,' he said. Mr Blair went on to outline the energy 'gap' that Britain will expect by 2025. 'These facts put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables and a step-change on energy efficiency, engaging both business and consumers, back on the agenda with a vengeance.' The Prime Minister's official spokesperson said that no official decisions had yet been taken, and that Mr Blair was merely setting out the facts as he saw them - that if nothing is done, then Britain will be dependent on foreign gas imports. The European Green Paper on energy is open for comments up to 24 September. An EU-wide energy policy was first mooted by Mr Blair in October 2005, during the Hampton Court European Council. A spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry, the department responsible for UK energy policy said, 'The Prime Minister's comments were him re-iterating what he had said before - that nuclear power must be on the agenda alongside renewables and energy efficiency. The energy review is not yet complete - so there is no change to the position.' When asked how a UK move to nuclear influences the EU-wide energy policy, the spokesperson replied: 'We will publish a response to the EU energy Green Paper, most probably in June.' Recommendations from the national energy review will most likely feed into both UK energy policy and UK recommendations on the EU green paper. A spokesperson for the EU Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, remarked that the decision on whether to move towards nuclear power must be taken by the Member States. 'It is a question of subsidiarity, and the EU is neutral in these matters. The EU is active only in promoting the use of renewable sources and energy efficiency. We hope there can be an open debate, where all issues are addressed,' he said. The European Atomic Energy Community, Euratom, has already announced plans to develop 'fourth generation' nuclear power stations. It formally joined an international framework agreement for collaborative research and development on fourth generation nuclear energy systems, it was announced on 11 May.