Coalition will back new generation of privately funded nuclear power stations despite internal opposition

The coalition government has set out how it will allow a new generation of nuclear power stations to be built without public subsidy despite heartfelt opposition from the Liberal Democrats.

The full coalition agreement, published this morning, said the Liberal Democrats would continue to argue against more nuclear power stations from within the coalition, but would agree to abstain on votes over a new national energy planning statement. The agreement specifically sets out that Lib Dem opposition to nuclear power whould not be taken as vote of no confidence in the coalition.

The agreement says that a Lib Dem spokesperson will argue against the policy statement when debated in the House of Commons. Lib Dem MPs will abstain, which is likely to let the policy through with the support of Labour MPs.

However, the agreement is careful to make it clear that the new build programme should only be extended to the replacement of the existing, ageing fleet of power stations, and that each one will be subject to the normal planning process.

The document also fulfils manifesto commitments from both parties to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission, set up last year by Labour in part to fast-track the new generation of nuclear power plants.

The document also makes it clear that no public subsidy will be allowed for nuclear power: “We will implement a process allowing the Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the National Planning Statement for ratification by parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.”

The document also commits the coalition to developing a “smart” electricity grid, funding carbon capture and storage projects, and developing offshore wind generation.