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E.ON says UK nuclear talks must go on despite courts

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should push on with pre-licensing talks with firms about building new nuclear power plants despite challenges from environmental groups, the chief executive of E.ON UK EONG.DE, the UK arm of the German utility, said on Tuesday.

Sizewell Nuclear Plant is seen in the early morning light in Suffolk, eastern England in this November 29, 2005 file photo. Britain should push on with pre-licensing talks with firms about building new nuclear power plants despite challenges from environmental groups, the chief executive of E.ON UK, the UK arm of the German utility, said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Paul Golby told the Future of Utilities conference in London that the recent Greenpeace challenge to the government’s Energy White Paper should not prevent other work into a new generation of nuclear power stations.

“There is no reason for the government not to continue with pre-licensing arrangements, with which we and others in the industry have engaged with,” said Golby, adding that E.ON is prepared to pay its share of the costs of pre-licensing before public consultations are finished.

“In the interest of the UK having the option to replace its current nuclear fleet in good time, I believe that it is therefore vital for the pre-licensing process to continue on a ‘without prejudice’ basis pending the outcome of the upcoming consultation.”

To date, only EDF of France has said publicly that it is interested in building more nuclear power plants in Britain as the country’s existing reactors near retirement.

E.ON and its German rival RWE RWEG.DE have both long been thought to be in talks with the British government over new build, because of their experience running Germany's reactors, but have remained tight-lipped.

Golby repeated calls from utilities interested in building a wide variety of types of power plants for Britain’s cumbersome planning process to be streamlined to ensure power supplies while cutting carbon emissions.

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“Planning impacts all energy technologies, not just nuclear,” he said. “As a company with a 1-bln pound investment plan for renewables over the next five years, it’s clear to us that the important contribution renewable energy could make is being put at risk by current planning policies rather than by potential investment in nuclear or other technologies.”

The Energy White Paper, setting out Britain’s plans to secure energy supplies and cut carbon emissions in the battle against global warming, had been expected in mid-March.

But the government’s plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations were thrown into doubt on February 15 when a judge ruled that the public consultation process behind the White Paper carried out last year had been “inadequate” and “misleading.”

E.ON owns Powergen, a leading UK energy supplier with around 8.5 million electricity and gas customer accounts.

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