April 30, 2010 / 5:03 PM / 10 years ago

UK nuclear plans unharmed by hung parliament

MUNICH (Reuters) - A hung British parliament with a strong, anti-nuclear Liberal Democrat Party should not derail the multi-billion pound expansion of Britain’s nuclear industry, the head of the UK Atomic Energy Authority said on Friday.

A spike in the popularity of the Liberal Democrats after the first live televised debate between the leaders of Britain’s three main political parties has increased the chances of no one party gaining control of parliament after the May 6 election.

Some energy industry observers have said that if the pro-nuclear Conservative or Labour parties had to team up with the Lib Dems in a power-sharing government, it could disrupt the current Labour government’s plans to rebuild Britain’s ageing atomic energy sector.

But the big investment plans of France’s EDF (EDF.PA), Germany’s E.ON (EONGn.DE) and RWE (RWEG.DE), and other European utilities hoping to take part in Britain’s nuclear revival should be safe.

“I don’t believe that the amount of seats the LibDems get, or the amount of time they’ll have power for, is enough to stop that train which has left the station,” Lady Barbara Judge, Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority told Reuters in an interview.

“I don’t believe this issue would come to the floor in the period in which there was a hung parliament, because there is no legislation pending.”

The current Labour government has named 10 potential sites that could have new reactors by 2025.

EDF plans to build the first by 2017, with plans for three more, while a E.ON/RWE joint venture is aiming to build 6 gigawatts of nuclear plants in the UK by 2025.

While both Labour and the Conservatives support nuclear power, the Lib Dems say they oppose building new nuclear power stations because the industry has “a dirty legacy and increases global security threat.”

However, they might not be quite so staunchly against atomic energy, going on recent comments in one of the live debates.

“While the LibDems are historically not in favour of nuclear, in one of the recent debates Nick Clegg indicated he wasn’t totally against nuclear, he just thought it wasn’t economical,” Judge said.

“I believe the logic of the situation and the necessity of the situation will prevail. We do need nuclear among the mix. They will probably understand that and although they may have been against it in the past, the situation has changed and we now need it.”

Reporting by Marc Jones, editing by Daniel Fineren

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