» Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nuclear Power

Asked if it would be fair to say that it was the first time that the Prime Minister had explicitly backed the nuclear option as one of three specifics, the PMOS said: no. The Prime Minister had always talked about having to make decisions on nuclear power stations, and what he was doing at this stage, was setting out the questions which the Energy Review would have to address. However, one of those question was: did we as a country want to become so dependant on gas and on 80-90% dependant on foreign imports?

Put that it sounded from the way it was phrased that the Prime Minister was giving a strong signal that he thought there would need to be a regeneration of nuclear power stations, the PMOS replied that this was not the Prime Minister framing these facts, but rather, they were facts that we as a country had to address. That was what the Energy Review would address, but what was important was that people realised in as stark a way as possible what the facts were. That was why the Prime Minister was setting it out in his speech, and that was what he hoped the Energy Review would address, but which the public as a whole would address also.

Put that the answer to the question of did we want to rely on 80-90% foreign imports was no, the PMOS said that today was not the day for publishing or discussing the Energy Review. Rather, today was the day for posing the questions which the Energy Review had to address, and that was what the Prime Minister was doing. If people had a different version of the facts, then they were quite free to put down that version, but the facts were as we had set them out.

Asked about the meeting yesterday, and who attended, the PMOS said that it was the team who were doing the Energy Review and others.

Asked if there would be an energy White Paper, the PMOS said that again, it was a question of how far did we set out the options or put forward recommendations.

Asked if this first cut just posed a problem, as it implied that it wanted to replace nuclear power stations with more nuclear power stations, the PMOS replied that this was not the publication of what the Government was going to do. Rather, it was stating the facts as we had found them to be, and it was important that people addressed those facts, and were aware of that, so that they had time themselves to think through what the answers were.

Put that again, it implied that nuclear power stations were going to be replaced with other ones, the PMOS said that as he had said, we were not setting out what the Government was going to do today. The fact had to be addressed that if nothing was done, then there was going to be a carbon gap, and a dependency on gas, and a dependency on foreign gas. That was the reality of the situation.

Asked if the Prime Minister was going to be disappointed if the Energy Review came up with different facts, the PMOS replied that these were the facts as discovered by the Energy Review. There was not one category of facts that were what we were saying today, and another category of facts that were used in the Energy Review. These were the things discovered by the Energy Review.

Asked if these were what were told in the meeting yesterday, the PMOS said that they were.

Put that the Prime Minister’s current policy was unchanged, but if a lot of money was "being pumped into renewables, therefore all these ghastly scenarios would fall by the wayside", the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister did talk about a big push on renewables being back on the agenda. That was in itself was not going to be enough. The PMOS also explained that the carbon gap was the gap between what our target was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and what actually would be the reality if we left things as they were.

Asked if the Prime Minister had had any contact with CORUM, and what was going to happen to the stockpiles of nuclear waste, the PMOS said that in terms of the Energy Review, it went through a large-scale consultation process. Therefore what it said would obviously take that into account.

Asked if the presentation was by officials, or by the Energy Review team, the PMOS said that it was a mixture of Ministers and officials.

Asked if the Prime Minister had decided to come out and smooth the way towards a more sympathetic response, the PMOS said that what the Prime Minister was doing was stating the facts as discovered by the review as he had said.

Asked if Alastair Darling was in charge of the review, the PMOS said that Malcolm Wicks was carrying out the review, as was the case previously.

Asked if Alastair Darling was there yesterday, the PMOS replied that the DTI was represented through the Minister.

Put that the last time that the Prime Minister had spoken to the CBI, he also sent what was widely interpreted as a strong signal in favour of nuclear power, and would the CBI be wrong to take this as another strong signal, the PMOS said that long experience had suggested to him that it was not for him to speculate, or commentate on how others viewed things. It was for them to take their own view.

Asked to characterise what the Prime Minister’s take was on renewables and on their limitations, the PMOS said that it was not just the Prime Minister’s take, but rather, it was a generally accepted take. The Prime Minister wanted renewables to play a bit part, and that was why he had talked about a big push on renewables. Issues had to faced about technical limitations and planning issues also had to be faced as well. The PMOS said that the Energy Review should study all the options. What the Prime Minister had said was that there was no one club solution to this issue.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that it had taken the Government nine years to get round to sorting out the energy issues, such as gas supplies or the de/recommissioning of power stations, the PMOS said that if people looked at the experience of other governments around the world, and if people had said to any of us this time last year that energy was going to be so dominant on the international agenda and the agenda of national governments as it was now, then people would have been surprised. The reason, as it was, was partly because of the facts as they were laid out today, but also partly because of the increasing demand for energy from developing countries, such as China or India. There was a changing international market in energy, and that was part of what was driving the situation that we now had to address.

Put that the three options were not mutually exclusive, i.e. if we all "lagged our lofts, we did not need nuclear power", the PMOS replied that if we all lagged our lofts, then it might be part of the solution, but it was not THE solution.

Asked about the long term options in the speech, the PMOS said that in terms of this speech, these were issues which the analysis of the Energy Review went to 2025. In terms of substance, that was the issue that we were addressing.

Asked by Channel Four if there was a part of the speech that said the Treasury had some new responsibility, the PMOS replied that he had come to the conclusion that the journalist practiced his deadpan questions in front of his mirror each morning.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Search for related news

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