Business secretary John Hutton today said he wants, 'nuclear power stations built and operating as quickly as possible,' and needs companies to invest.
Hutton launched a new plan for building new nuclear power stations in Britain, the 'best place in the world'. Read his full speech here
He said: "Nuclear has proved to be a dependable, affordable and safe source of low-carbon energy. And as such, it has - alongside renewables and carbon capture and storage, a critical role to play in our future energy mix.
"To meet our energy goals, we must do everything we can to ensure new nuclear power stations are available as soon as possible.
"But, as more and more countries seek to insulate themselves against future energy price rises, soaring energy demand and the irrefutable reality of climate change, they're competing hard for the people, investment and technology to enable their own nuclear programmes.
"The UK Government has the ambition and commitment to build and maintain the best market in the world for companies to do business in nuclear power.
"The UK must aim to become the world's number one location for new nuclear investment - benefiting from the thousands of jobs and billions of pounds worth of business that this could potentially bring to our country."
Hutton also presented the Government's action plan for new nuclear. The government will:
- create the 'Office of Nuclear Development', for efficient development of new nuclear
- create a new 'Nuclear Development Forum', to be chaired by Hutton, bringing together Government and the industry, to discuss key issues and maintain momentum as nuclear new build progresses
- publish draft criteria for the siting of new nuclear power stations - the Strategic Siting Assessment.
Hutton also announced a series on 'no-commitment' negotiations with regions that could be persuaded to store nuclear waste.
Environment secretary Hilary Benn said: "The Government, along with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, will be looking to sit down and discuss, with any community that feels it has an interest, both the technical aspects of the safe implementation of a geological disposal facility and the wider social, economic and environment issues involved. Ultimately for the process to succeed a mutually acceptable agreement will need to be reached. These discussions will be exploratory and without any commitment to actually hosting a facility. Regions could be renumerated for volunteering."
Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Steve Webb was unimpressed. "The bill for cleaning up our past nuclear waste is soaring astronomically. These sweeteners to bribe communities into taking a new waste dump will increase these costs further.
"If the Government is determined to press ahead with new nuclear plants, it is vital that the companies involved are made to meet the full cost of clean-up.
"They must not be allowed to leave an expensive and toxic legacy for the taxpayer for a second time."
Hutton's advisor Tim Stone announced measures to improve the recruitment and retention of staff at the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), which regulates nuclear safety, and hopes to introduce a more efficient NII.
Inspectors will shortly begin their detailed assessment of the three nuclear reactor designs, a complex process known as the Generic Design Assessment which is due to be completed by 2011.
Defra published its new White Paper Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal, the next step in putting into place the long term solution to the UK's existing higher activity radioactive waste.