The U.K. government will allow work on building new nuclear power plants to progress as it conducts a study of the disaster at an atomic facility in Japan, the minister in charge of climate change said.
There will be no “material delay” in the U.K.’s plan to allow new nuclear generators at eight sites, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said in an interview in New York. The report, he said, is due to be handed to ministers next month.
Barker’s remarks were aimed at assuaging concerns that Britain’s reactor-building program would be held up while the nuclear regulator studies the accident in Japan, caused when an earthquake and tsunami interrupted power to cooling pumps at a Tokyo Electric Power Co. facility. The U.K. estimates it needs investment of 200 billion pounds ($320 billion) to replace aging generators including nuclear plants by 2010.
“We’re not proposing to build in an earthquake zone, and we’re not proposing to build somewhere prone to tsunamis, but we will be looking to see what can be taken from that terrible crisis,” Barker, a Conservative member of Parliament in the coalition government, said.
E.ON AG, EDF SA and RWE AG are among the companies bidding for work replacing Britain’s aging atomic power stations. Germany halted nuclear stations and said it would review whether it should continue with building more, and China and India also are studying what they should change as a result of the accident in Japan.
Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg fanned concerns about a delay last week, when he told reporters that the new plants may never be built because of raising costs associated with new safety standards.
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne’s last month asked Mike Weightman, the country’s chief nuclear inspector, to determine what the U.K. can learn about the accident in Japan. Barker dismissed the idea that the report would make any conclusions that would hold up work.
“We aren’t expecting any surprises and are equally determined to learn any lessons that are applicable in the U.K.,” Barker said. “There’s no change to our timetable.”
It’s too soon to tell if the incident at the Fukushima power plant will affect global emissions targets, he said. “But it will drive an even greater sense of the need to save energy to reduce dependency,” he said. Energy efficiency will be the technology that receives the greatest boost from the disaster at Fukushima, he said.
“We don’t see in the U.K. a need for any major departure from our strategy as a result of Fukushima. Safety remains our paramount concern but we see no reason today to divert from our published plans,” he said.