Labour hits the right nuclear button

April 30, 2009

REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Here’s a novelty — an awkward process that this British government has actually got right. Labour has played a fine game of grandmother’s footsteps in its realization of the inevitability of new nuclear power stations, and this week has clinched the sale of two sites for them.

The auction process, pioneered by Labour with the sale of radio spectrum for mobile phones, has once again raised much more than most observers expected.

Germany’s RWE and Eon are now the proud owners of land at Wylfa (on Anglesey, an island off a remote corner of Wales) and Oldbury (Gloucester, England).

Considering the relentless opposition from the tree-huggers, wind farm fans and believers in bad science, the UK government has managed the shift from “Nuclear power? No thanks” to economic reality rather well.

Having been forced to step in and rescue British Energy, the nuclear generator that dared not speak its name, it engineered the sale of the state’s holding to EDF of France last year before the capital markets seized up.

Now all the German owners of these little bits of Britain have to do is find the tens of billions of pounds needed to build the power stations. Let’s hope they can get them up and running before Britain’s lights start to dim, some time towards the end of the next decade.

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