The Government has pushed ahead with plans for new nuclear power plants in the UK as it confirmed a list of eight sites where the next generation of reactors can be built.
In the first major announcement on the future of nuclear in the UK since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the Government outlined the locations deemed suitable for new power stations by 2025, all of which are adjacent to existing nuclear sites.
The eight sites are: Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, South Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; and Wylfa, Anglesey.
The plans for new nuclear power plants are part of a series of national policy statements on energy which have been published following a public consultation. They will be debated and voted on in Parliament, but ministers are hopeful that, with a pro-nuclear majority in the Commons, they will win the argument.
Nuclear power is one of the issues that divided Conservatives and Liberal Democrats when they entered Government together, with the coalition deal allowing a Lib Dem spokesman to speak out against any new nuclear plants, while Lib Dem MPs could abstain on the issue.
Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has since given his backing to new reactors, insisting they would not be subsidised by the taxpayer - although MPs have warned that reform of the electricity market could favour nuclear power and amount to a hidden subsidy.
The energy policy statements aim to provide a framework for making planning decisions so projects do not face "unnecessary hold-ups". They set out the need for billions of pounds of investment in new energy sources, including 33 gigawatts of renewable power - the equivalent of thousands of offshore wind turbines - to meet the UK's future needs.
Energy minister Charles Hendry said: "Around a quarter of the UK's generating capacity is due to close by the end of this decade. We need to replace this with secure, low carbon, affordable energy. This will require over £100 billion worth of investment in electricity generation alone. This means twice as much investment in energy infrastructure in this decade as was achieved in the last decade. Industry needs as much certainty as possible to make such big investments. These plans set out our energy need to help guide the planning process, so that if acceptable proposals come forward in appropriate places, they will not face unnecessary hold-ups."
Louise Hutchins, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "It's illogical, and possibly illegal, for the Government to keep pushing for a fleet of new nuclear reactors before we've even learned the lessons from the Fukushima meltdown."
Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, said: "Time is running out to achieve a secure, low-carbon and cost effective energy mix, so it is good news that the Government has heeded our calls to publish the National Policy Statements on energy. These statements make clear the scale of the challenge. To provide investor confidence, what we now need is Parliament's approval before the summer recess so the energy sector can get on with what needs doing."