Dutch scupper new nuclear plant hopes before 2011

Thursday, September 11, 2008

AMSTERDAM, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The Dutch government ruled out on Thursday any chance of Dutch utility Delta gaining permission to build the country's second nuclear power station during the current administration's term of office to 2011.

'The coalition government agreement is crystal clear. We will not make any decisions over the construction of new nuclear power stations,' Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer of the Labour party (PvdA) told Dutch radio station BNR.

Delta's chief executive Peter Boerma told Dutch daily Het Financieele Dagblad on Wednesday that Delta hoped to build two to four new nuclear power stations and be able to begin construction at the start of the next cabinet period.

'There's no ban on thinking,' a spokesman for Economy Minister Maria van der Hoeven of the Christian Democrats (CDA) said. 'But you should not expect actual decisions either in favour or preventing nuclear power stations in future from this cabinet.'

The Netherlands has only one nuclear plant and the Dutch cabinet has agreed that no new plants would be built during its mandate, which runs until 2011, preferring to leave that decision in the hands of the next government.

But division has opened up within the coalition government parties after the chairman of the CDA, Pieter van Geel, wrote recently that new nuclear plants were 'unavoidable' to meet the country's future demand. He suggested firms should go ahead and request permits for future plants.

But the PvdA's Cramer wants to focus on renewable energy such as wind and solar and look at ways to develop cleaner coal plants rather than encourage nuclear power due to waste and safety concerns.

In response to a Parliament request, the government will now send a letter further informing MPs about its nuclear energy policy, the Economy Ministry spokesman said. He did not elaborate further.

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