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New Nuclear Power Plants Unlikely Before 2020

No nuclear power plants are likely to be built in Britain before 2020, if they are built at all, which will be too late to fill the country's looming power generation gap, according to a new report..

No nuclear power plants are likely to be built in Britain before 2020, if they are built at all, which will be too late to fill the country's looming power generation gap, according to a new report..

The Government wants the private sector to build new nuclear power plants to replace the country's ageing reactors and plug a generation shortfall left by the closure of coal-fired power plants under European environment laws.

But the report by Poyry Energy Consulting says the commercial case for building new nuclear plants is shaky and that none will be built without a higher long-term carbon price than that set by the current European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

"Despite the rhetoric, it is difficult to see much new nuclear capacity coming into the market before 2020," Poyry director Andrew Nind said. "Beyond then prospects look better, but the future of nuclear probably depends on the creation of a long-term carbon price guarantee. In its current form, the ETS will not suffice."

Partly because of high capital investment costs and rising prices for uranium, companies will not spend the huge sums required on nuclear power without a long-term reliable carbon price above 20 euros a tonne.The current ETS runs only until 2012 and investors still have no idea what the EU plans to do about the carbon market beyond then.

A spokeswoman for the department responsible for energy said  the Government was already trying to work out how the country will cope if no nuclear power plants are built.

The government admitted last week that the current target of getting 20 percent of its power from renewable sources of energy by 2020 is already very challenging, so it may have to become still more dependent on imported gas, while slashing demand.