ENVIRONMENTALISTS claim the death knell may be sounding for Britain’s nuclear power aspirations after one of the biggest energy companies in the country pulled out of a consortium to build power stations.
Perth-based Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is to sell its 25per cent stake in the NuGen consortium of energy companies committed to creating new nuclear power stations to its partners GDF Suez and Iberdrola.
While it claims to be still in favour of nuclear power as part of the UK’s current mix of energy generation, the company said that being involved in the creation of new plants would consume too much management time and investment.
However, WWF Scotland claimed SSE’s move now created doubt on the viability of new nuclear.
The charity said that renewables and energy efficiency were a cleaner and more cost-effective option and urged the other companies in the consortium, including ScottishPower’s owners Iberdrola, to also abandon their nuclear power ambitions.
WWF’s head of policy Dan Barlow, said: “This decision should send a clear warning to those backing a nuclear revival that the risk is too great.
“SSE’s plan to now turn its attention to non-nuclear technologies should bolster Scotland’s 100 per cent renewables ambition.
“We don’t see any role for new nuclear going forward. Reducing energy demand and increasing clean renewables should be the focus of our energy policy.”
The British government approved eight sites for nuclear plants in
About a quarter of the country’s generation capacity is set to expire in the next decade as coal-fired stations shut to meet European pollution requirements and reactors reach the end of their working lives.
NuGen Ltd, 75 percent-controlled by GDF and Iberdrola, aims to develop as much as 3,600 megawatts of atomic power, with the first reactors commissioned around 2023.
The plan had been to develop a new nuclear power station near Sellafield in West Cumbria but the final decision on whether to go ahead with the project must be made by 2015.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, generation and supply director at SSE, said “Our core investment in generation should be in renewable energy”.
He added: “We have always adopted a cautious approach to the financial and other issues associated with nuclear power development.
“NuGen will have to make a multi-billion pound investment decision around 2015, but even getting to the point of that decision will absorb, from now on, significant financial and management resources.
“We have concluded that, for the time being, our resources are better deployed on business activities and technologies where we have the greatest knowledge and experience.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency, in a report last week, said the nuclear accident in Japan that was sparked by a massive earthquake in March is expected to slow the advance of nuclear power.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in response to Japan’s nuclear disaster, ordered eight of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors closed by year’s end and a total shutdown by 2022.