Energy Secretary Chris Huhne says there may be lessons to learn about nuclear power after Japan, but added British facilities are safe.
Mr Huhne said safety at British power stations was ‘paramount’
Giving evidence to the House of Commons Energy Select Committee, Mr Huhne said Britain has a “robust safety and regulatory regime” and that “safety is paramount.”
He agreed with the Committee Chairman, Conservative MP Tim Yeo, that the country has a very good nuclear safety record and this should reassure the public.
But Mr Huhne accused some other European governments of “rushing to judgments” over the safety of nuclear power in the wake of the Japan crisis.
He referred to “continental politicians” just hours after Germany announced that it will shut down seven older reactors.
If there are any lessons to be learnt, we will learn them.
Energy secretary Chris Huhne
Mr Huhne has commissioned a UK safety review which will be chaired by chief nuclear inspector Dr Mike Weightman, who will look at what can be learnt from Fukushima.
The Energy Secretary pointed out that Britain is lucky not to be in an earthquake zone, but there may be lessons about, for example, back-up systems.
He conceded the locations of the UK’s nuclear power stations in low-lying areas make them vulnerable to flooding in extreme weather conditions.
“If there are any lessons to be learnt, we will learn them,” he said.
He told the committee of MPs: “I know it can be frustrating in terms of those who want to come to more rapid conclusions but we should not rush to judgment.
“Let’s wait until we have got the full facts.
Sizewell nuclear power station in Suffolk
“I regret the fact that some continental politicians do seem to be rushing to judgments on this before we have had the proper assessment.”
Mr Huhne said he had commissioned Dr Weightman’s review to make sure debate in the UK was based “on reality and on the facts and not on a load of supposition”.
Firm information about what happened at Fukushima was still hard to obtain, he said.
“It is not possible to pick up the phone and have a sensible conversation with an informed person in Japan, for the obvious reason that they have a lot of things on their mind and briefing me, or anyone else is, not a high priority – and nor should it be.”
“We have to wait and see. I know sometimes that can be frustrating but it is the safe and sensible thing to do.”