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UK nuclear plant delay 'minimal'

Energy firm EDF Energy has said Japan’s crisis is unlikely to significantly delay the UK’s £50bn nuclear power plant building programme, it has been reported.

There had been fears that a major safety review sparked by events in Japan would severely slow Britain’s nuclear plant rebuilding programme, on which 100,000 jobs depend.

But senior executives at French-owned EDF, the largest nuclear operator in the UK which is constructing new power stations at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk, are confident they will complete the projects virtually on schedule, according to the Mail on Sunday.

They told the newspaper they have received signals from the Government that the crisis would delay Britain’s nuclear programme by a couple of weeks at the most.

EDF boss Vincent de Rivaz said while the industry needed to learn lessons from the disaster in Japan, it should not delay its progress in the UK. adding his enthusiasm for nuclear expansion was undimmed.

He warned Britain is facing an “energy gap” as power stations come to the end of their working lives, which could cause power shortages and blackouts.

He told a meeting of the Nuclear Development Forum this week: “It is totally right that the nuclear incident unfolding at the moment should trigger so much attention and concern.

“The events in Japan do not change the need for nuclear in Britain. The critical task in front of us today is to deliver a secure, clean and affordable energy mix.”

Energy secretary Chris Huhne ordered chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman to review the safety of nuclear power and hinted that the Government could back away from its use.

The Fukushima plant in Japan, which was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami, is close to meltdown as emergency services spray water on it in a desperate bid to stop it overheating. It has leaked radiation into the atmosphere causing residents nearby to be evacuated.

EDF pledged to co-operate fully with Mr Weightman’s review and was making arrangements to ship 100t of boric acid to Japan, to help with cooling efforts, and providing potassium iodate tablets to help deal with radiation.

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