» Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Nuclear Power

Asked at what point in the drafting of Prime Minister’s speech did he highlight the nuclear energy issue, which people had been led to believe was not going to make a big push initially, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that if people looked back at the briefing on Tuesday, he did mention that energy would be part of the subject. The Prime Minister did not finish writing the speech until shortly before the PMOS gave quotes yesterday afternoon.

Put that the PMOS did say during the briefing that the Prime Minister was "open minded" about nuclear, whereas the actual words were a lot stronger, the PMOS said that he could not read the Prime Minister’s mind before he wrote things and did not claim to do so. The Prime Minister was still saying that we had to answer the questions on nuclear, on a big push on renewables, and on energy efficiency. What the Prime Minister was not doing was pre-empting the energy review.

Asked if the Prime Minister’s view on nuclear power had changed in any way, the PMOS replied that rather than going through processology, we should instead address the facts. The facts were as we set them out yesterday: they showed that if we did nothing, then there would be an 80-90% dependency on foreign gas imports. That was an issue that had to be addressed. The facts also showed that if we did nothing, then we would fail to meet our carbon dioxide emissions target by a considerable way.

Asked what did the Prime Minister mean when he had talked about replacements, the PMOS said people should wait for the Energy Review to be published.

Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that nuclear power was on the agenda in Scotland, the PMOS replied that the Scottish Executive was perfectly entitled to make its own mind up on the matters under its purvey. Equally, however, we did have to address the reality of the energy gap in all parts of the United Kingdom.

Asked what had changed, and what did the Prime Minister mean when he said "back with a vengeance", and why today, and not, say six months ago, and was it just a headline, the PMOS replied that it was not just a headline. Reality was not just a headline, but rather, it was something that had to be dealt with. The reality, therefore was, that the more we learnt, not just in this country, but internationally, about the impact, both in terms of climate change and security supply, and also about how China and India’s development was going to have on the energy issue, the more we realised that we had to address the hard questions, and address them now. This was not a situation in which Mr. Micawber was going to work. People could not just hope that something would turn up, but decisions actually had to be made. Those decisions had to be made now, because in this field, there was a long league time between either making decisions now and that having an impact further down the line, or if the decisions were not taken now, that equally had an impact. What we could not do was run away from was the fact that there did need to be a decision. The PMOS said that the fact of the matter was that the demand for energy worldwide had become more intense and showed no sign of becoming less intense. If people listened to conversations with world leaders, this time last year, it was unlikely that energy was a subject that was very high on the agenda. It was now virtually top of the agenda in almost every discussion.

Put that it was part of the agenda at the G8, the PMOS said that it was, but not as high on the agenda as it now was. It was the impact of China in particular, but India too, which was intensifying the debate worldwide.

Asked if that meant that there must be a clear signal being made, the PMOS replied that again, we did need to let the Energy Review be published, but what we could not do was spend a large amount of time debating over this issue, as the Prime Minister had made clearing his speech yesterday.

Asked why the Prime Minister did not wait for more details on waste disposal, the PMOS said that again, people should wait for the Energy Review to deal with these issues. If people looked at how the technology had advanced, waste disposal, in relative terms, had become a less significant part of the equation.

Put that the Prime Minister had made no mention of clean coal, and did that play a part, the PMOS said again that people should wait for the Energy Review. As the PMOS had said yesterday, no-one was suggesting that there was a one club solution. The PMOS said he understood why there was so much focus on the nuclear issue yesterday, but he pointed out that in the same paragraph, the Prime Minister did talk about a big push on renewables and energy efficiency. The problem was, as the PMOS also said yesterday, that experts said those measures by themselves would not be enough.

Put that the Prime Minister had said that once the Energy Review had been published, there would be a policy statement, and did that also mean that there would be an Energy White Paper, the PMOS replied that obviously, whatever we published in terms of the Energy Review would be consulted on. This would not be further options to be endlessly debated, but rather, moving towards making recommendations to be consulted on.

Asked if the Government was assuming that they didn’t need legislation, the PMOS said that we would get into processology whenever the Eenrgy Review was published.
Put that it was not processology, but rather, about accountability to Parliament, the PMOS said again that the time to talk about it was when the Energy Review was published.

Put that it was claimed this morning that the tax payer would not have any extra costs on this, but the consumer would get any extra costs if the nuclear route was pursued, and was that the understanding, the PMOS said the question was two steps too far ahead. The important point at this point was to recognise that the facts as they were, and then to see how the Energy Review dealt with them, and then the knock-ons after that.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be relaxed about any suggestion that we did proceed without nuclear at all, and did he think that was even a possibility, the PMOS said that what people had to look at was first of all, if we left the status quo, the figures that were produced yesterday showed that that meant that the carbon dioxide emissions target would be missed. It also meant that we would be 80-90% dependant on foreign gas imports from the Middle East, Africa and Russia. The question that had to be asked was: was that a situation that people were content with? People then had to ask the question: can the gap be made up by a combination of renewables and energy efficiencies? Because of the limitations, as they were at the moment, the answer to that would be: no.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news

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