U.K. Liberal Democrats Vote to Back Nuclear Plants in U-Turn

The Liberal Democrats, junior partners in the U.K.’s governing coalition, voted to back the building of new nuclear power stations in a reversal of party policy.

Party activists, who previously voted against nuclear energy, backed a motion today at their party’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which said that “nuclear power stations could play a limited role in electricity supply.” They also gave their support to fracking for shale gas, a practice that’s drawn protests in Britain.

“When I have listened to the arguments of pro-nuclear Liberal Democrats in recent years, the one argument I found increasingly difficult to answer is the climate-change argument, because climate change poses a real and massive danger to our planet,” Energy Secretary Ed Davey told delegates. “Not keeping a genuinely low-carbon source of electricity as an option looks reckless when we don’t know the future.”

The Liberal Democrats have slowed the development of fracking, which has been championed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne from their Conservative coalition partners, Davey said. The policy motion passed today supports the practice so long as pollution controls are enforced, local people retain control over planning decisions and compensation is paid to communities.

“Let’s be the voice of green reason in the shale debate and reject the zealots who claim it’s a catastrophe, reject the vested interests who argue it answers all Britain’s energy problems -- they are both wrong,” Davey said. “I’ve been cautious on shale, avoiding hyperbole, weighing up the evidence, insisting on firm regulation. I’ve been fracking-responsible.”

Delegates also voted to prioritize the building of international interconnectors and to back the development of energy storage in the U.K.

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