Hung parliament bad for new nuclear - trade body

LONDON Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:16pm GMT

A sign is seen on the security fence of British Energy's Heysham nuclear power station, northern England April 14, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A sign is seen on the security fence of British Energy's Heysham nuclear power station, northern England April 14, 2008 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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LONDON (Reuters) - Investment in the country's ageing nuclear power fleet could be in jeopardy, if the general election ends in a hung parliament, two energy trade associations told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Labour government has backed nuclear power, approving potential sites for new developments, and the Conservative energy policy makes clear its aim of speeding up planning policy for nuclear power plants.

But the Liberal Democrats oppose new nuclear which they say will "will soak up subsidy, centralise energy production and hinder development of Britain's vast renewable resources," thus creating uncertainty if there is a hung parliament -- where no party has a majority -- after an expected May 6 election.

"A hung parliament frightens me a bit. The only way it can be made to work is if all three main parties make a very strong pledge," David Porter, the head of an association of companies likely to build new nuclear plants, said on the sidelines of an Energy Lectures briefing in London.

"But it looks difficult when you realise nuclear power is going to be one of the solutions to Britain's low carbon future and one of the parties is strongly opposed to nuclear power."

The Association of Electricity Producers members include energy companies EDF, RWE, and E.ON who, with others, have plans for new nuclear plants on 10 potential sites.

"There has to be a concern about the Liberal Democrats ideological, and in our view irresponsible, views on nuclear power," Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, said.

"It's about time that party grew up and accepted the need for nuclear as many environmentalists have," the UK business lobby group for large energy buyers added.

RWE npower has also voiced concern over the ability to carry out expensive energy infrastructure projects should there be a hung parliament, fearing extended discussions between the parties could scare away investors.

Many of Britain's ageing nuclear power plants are scheduled to shut over the next few years, with the government pushing private companies to build new ones as part of a low carbon power generation mix.

(Reporting by Kwok W. Wan; editing by Sue Thomas)

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