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"We can't meet our climate change obligations without nuclea

The boss of nuclear operator British Energy yesterday urged the UK to "get on with" plans to build a new fleet of nuclear reactors, insisting that the country's soon to be legally binding emission reduction targets could not be met without it.

Speaking at the release of a disappointing set of results for the six months to 28 September that saw profits decline 50 per cent, chief executive Bill Coley said it was vital that the company's plans to build new reactors were accelerated.

British Energy, which is awaiting shareholder approval for a £12.4bn takeover bid from French energy giant EDF, is planning to build four new reactors and hopes to have the first site online by 2017.

Coley said that talks with local communities about the potential sites for the new reactors were underway, but added that if the UK was serious about transitioning towards a low-carbon economy, it was essential that actual work at the sites commenced as soon as possible.

"I think it's really important that the country gets on with this," he said. "We have a very old generating fleet and the UK needs new capacity."

Coley added that without a new generation of reactors the UK would struggle to deliver deep cuts in carbon emissions. "We can't meet our climate change obligations without nuclear. It's just got to be done," he said.

Earlier this week, recently appointed energy minister Mike O'Brien reiterated the government's commitment to delivering a "renaissance" in nuclear power, arguing that it represented a " crucial part" of the country's climate change policy.

He added that the government now wanted other companies besides EDF and British Energy to come forward with proposals for new reactors. "We want to build a UK-based nuclear enterprise and capacity," he said. "The creation of the new Office of Nuclear Development and the Nuclear Development Forum shows our ambition to build the know-how and delivery in the UK."

However, his comments were overshadowed somewhat by reports earlier this week that the government has been warned that legal challenges to the planning approval process could lead to delays of "a year or more".

Meanwhile, EDF sought to downplay suggestions that the poor financial performance of British Energy - which was partly attributed to a large repair bill for its ageing reactors - meant its £12.4bn takeover bid overvalued the company.

The energy giant said the deal would give it a long-term presence in a UK nuclear sector that is likely to grow in importance over the coming decades.

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