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U.K. Appetite for New Nuclear Remains ‘Strong,’ Hendry Says

There is still a “strong appetite” for building nuclear reactors in the U.K., even as Japan struggles to bring the damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic plant under control.

“There’s a lot of work which still needs to be done, but there’s still a very strong appetite,” Energy Minister Charles Hendry said in a television interview yesterday. “The issues in North Africa reinforce the need for us to move in a low carbon direction,” he added.

Before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that led to the Fukushima calamity, the U.K. government had begun an assessment of the country’s energy regulation in an effort to accelerate investment in nuclear and renewable energy projects. Measures being considered include a floor price on carbon emissions and guaranteeing long-term prices for low-carbon generators.

Chris Huhne, Britain’s energy minister, said on March 14 that he asked Mike Weightman, the country’s chief nuclear inspector, to report on the implications of Japan’s nuclear situation. Weightman said in a statement yesterday that his interim assessment will be completed by May and a final report will follow within six months.

“I think a delay is the wrong word, and certainly not a moratorium,” Hendry said. “I think what we’re looking at is saying that as we look at the specific sites which could be used for new build nuclear and as we look at the particular reactor designs which are being proposed, are there any lessons we can learn from what has happened in Japan in order to make sure that safety is always our top priority?”

Popular uprisings and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa this year have renewed concern over the region’s reliability as a source of energy supplies.

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