UK’s Liberal Democrats to Abstain on Votes for New Nuclear

The UK’s Liberal Democrats—a party long opposed to nuclear power—last week said it would abstain from voting against construction of new nuclear power plants in that country, as long as they are privately funded.

Freshly appointed Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne—a Liberal Democrat—also said the new coalition government with the Conservatives plans to introduce an emissions performance standard that would prevent coal-fired power plants from being built without carbon capture and storage technology. It also plans to set a minimum price for emitting carbon.

Other plans include encouraging marine energy, mandating a recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and increasing the nation’s renewable energy targets.

Britain’s nuclear reactors generated about a fifth of the country’s power in the second quarter of 2009, but all except one of them is due to be decommissioned by 2025. The Conservatives—led by Prime Minister David Cameron—had announced measures before the election to speed up the planning process for new nuclear plants. These measures give parliament direct powers to approve new nuclear plants.

Cameron has pledged to make the new government, "the greenest government ever,” adding, “It’s a very simple ambition and one I’m absolutely committed to achieving."

In a statement last week, Chris Huhne said climate change was main priority for the government. “We have a very short period of time to tackle the problem before it becomes irreversible and out of control. A lot of progress has been made, but we must now go further, faster and turn targets into real change,” he said.

Huhne also said that the government would put energy security, which he said had been for too long a “second order issue” at the heart of the county’s national security strategy. “I intend to make decisions put off for too long to fundamentally change how we supply and use energy in Britain,” he said.

Huhne said that another goal would be “to give the power industry the confidence it needs to invest in low carbon energy projects.”

Sources: UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, POWERnews

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