The new government’s energy secretary Chris Huhne this weekend reiterated his opposition to nuclear power.
“This is an island surrounded by sea,” said Liberal Democrat Mr Huhne. “We can use offshore tidal power, wind power, and we are sitting on enormous stocks of coal. We ought to be able to put together a policy that is non-carbon and independent from foreign sources.”
The new coalition government has struck a deal to allow a new generation of nuclear power stations to be built, provided that no public money is spent on them.
The nuclear issue was one that divided the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the run-up to the election, with the Tories supporting it and Nick Clegg’s party being strongly opposed.
With the energy and climate change department now being headed by Mr Huhne, the parties say they have agreed a deal to allow the Conservative majority to push through new nuclear stations.
The Tories will frame policy and the Liberal Democrats will abstain on any nuclear vote. Labour will maintain its backing of nuclear.
Mr Huhne said last week: “There is absolutely no disagreement between us on the key principle that there will be no public subsidy. Now, if it turns out that, for the first time in decades, a consortium is prepared to build a nuclear power station without public subsidy, then… that will, in all probability, go ahead.
“But I do think there are a lot of ifs there and I do think this is a way forward which allows the integrity of the Conservative and of the Liberal Democrat positions to be maintained.”
In their first press conference, David Cameron and Mr Clegg both pledged a low-carbon economy. No new coal power stations will be built unless they pass a carbon emissions standard, although this standard is undecided.
This will mean any new power stations will have to have at least partial carbon capture and storage.
Other key points in the government’s energy strategy are the establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters, a boost to anaerobic digestion and the creation of a green investment bank, a particular talking point recently among green campaigners.
See our story ‘Environment agenda unveiled’ to read the government’s full energy agreement