Peter Hoskin

Huhne backs nuclear energy through gritted teeth

Huhne backs nuclear energy through gritted teeth
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You could almost hear the thumbscrews being tightened as Chris Huhne appeared on Today this morning to back nuclear power. The Energy Secretary has an, erm, patchy history when it comes to supporting nuclear – and that fact, coupled with his less than evangelical rhetoric on the matter in government, has got plenty of industry professionals worried. So there he was reassuring us that, actually, the first new nuclear power station is still on course for 2018. And he added, gritting his teeth no doubt, that "providing there is no public money involved, there will be a majority in the House of Commons favour of nuclear power stations."

He's probably right on that last point: the coalition agreement has it so that nuclear power stations can still be approved even in the face of red-faced Lib Dem disapproval. But the current set-up is still more ambiguous than Gordon Brown's "no limit" policy on nuclear energy from 2008. According to that, at least another eight nuclear plants would be built across 15 years to compensate for decommissioned reactors elsewhere. True, our former PM may never have hit that target, particularly without public subsidy – but, for once, he had the right idea. Nuclear is a cheap, clean solution to the urgent prospect of energy shortages and rising prices. Let's hope the coalition can be as radical on this as in other areas.