Accessibility links

Breaking News

Britain Considers New Nuclear Power Plants


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced a government study to consider the construction of new nuclear power stations to fill an emerging energy gap. His proposal has drawn anti-nuclear protests.

Protesters from the environmental organization Greenpeace sparked a security alert at a London convention hall where Mr. Blair had planned to unveil his review of Britain's energy policy.

Two protesters carrying an anti-nuclear banner climbed the rafters of the hall, forcing Mr. Blair to move his speech to a group of business leaders to an adjacent room.

In opening his speech, Mr. Blair said he recognizes nuclear power is, "a difficult and challenging issue."

But the prime minister made clear what he thinks of the disruption by Greenpeace.

"What we actually need is a serious, open and democratic debate, not one conducted by protest or demonstrations to stop people having their freedom to express their view," said Mr. Blair.

Mr. Blair went on to announce a government review of energy policy, due by the middle of next year, which will consider the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations. He says Britain's move is part of a worldwide trend.

"Around the world, you can sense feverish rethinking. Energy prices are rising," he said. "Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency.

I have no doubt where policy is heading, here, in the United States, across the emerging economies of the world," continued Mr. Blair. "The future is clean energy, and nations will look to diversify out of energy dependence on one source."

Mr. Blair laid out a stark energy future for Britain, which has the world's fourth biggest economy.

He said during the next 15 years Britain will shut down aging coal and nuclear power plants that generate nearly one-third of the of the country's electricity. And he says renewable sources, such as wind power, cannot fill the gap alone.

Greenpeace director Stephen Tindale later issued a statement accusing the prime minister of resorting to political spin to win public support for nuclear power. The Tindale statement says nuclear power is costly, dangerous, and a terrorist target.