Energy secretary says nuclear national plan will only be ratified once any lessons learned

The government will reconsider its nuclear planning policy in the light of the Japanese disaster at the Fukushima plant, energy secretary Chris Huhne said today.

Following a full meeting of the Nuclear Development Forum this afternoon, Huhne said the Nuclear National Policy Statement, which identifies eight UK sites for a new generation of nuclear power plants, will be considered in the light of the interim findings of the chief nuclear inspector following Fukushima.

The nuclear policy statement, which was consulted on last year and was due to be ratified by parliament in late spring, will be checked against the initial findings of inspector Dr Mike Weightman, which will be published in May.

On Monday Huhne asked Dr Weightman to provide a report to see if there were any implications from the worsening situation at the Fukushima plant for the UK’s existing nuclear power stations, as well as its £50bn new build programme.

Huhne said today an interim report will be published in May, with a full report expected by September. Both reports will be made public.

A statement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The Secretary of State told industry that the government would consider the Nuclear National Policy Statement in light of the emerging nuclear crisis in Japan before proceeding with the ratification process. A government spokesman said it was too early to say if the process meant the ratification of the nuclear planning statement will be delayed.

Huhne said: “The tragic events in Japan are still unfolding. We should not rush to judgment. It is important that we have the full facts at our disposal. I have asked the Chief Nuclear Inspector for a full report so that the implications for the UK are clear. 

“Safety is and will continue to be the number one priority for existing nuclear sites and for any new power stations. I want to ensure that any lessons learned from Mike Weightman’s report are applied to the UK’s new build programme.” 

Dr Weightman said: “We must establish the facts on these unprecedented events and determine if there are lessons to be learned for the UK, to add to our very robust safety standards and arrangements.

“My report will be public, independent, evidence based, comprehensive, wide in scope and based on the best technical advice, consulting nationally and internationally with colleagues and organisations who, like us, have the safety and security of people and society uppermost in our minds.”