18 November 2002 – UK Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, has spoken of the dilemma facing the government over the fate of stricken nuclear power producer British Energy but admitted that the country needs the electricity it generates.
In an interview with The Sunday Times he said, We need that supply so, come what may, nuclear generation will continue”. He acknowledged that more funding was required but did not suggest whether this would come from the taxpayer or through an outside rescue bid.
Wilson said nuclear power “cannot be run on a shoestring and we have to accept that. The options are to continue to support them in the interests of security of supply or else put them into administration”.
British Energy was granted a £650m ($1bn) loan by the UK government in order to continue trading after falling wholesale power prices caused the company to admit it might have to cease trading. The bailout runs out on 29 November and intensive discussions are continuing to achieve a long-term solution to the crisis.
Several rival generators have been invited to put forward suggestions for a way forward including Electricité de France and German-owned Innogy. No firm bid has been made for British Energy with potential bidders put off by the high cost of nuclear-produced electricity when prices are low.
British Energy is reported to be trying to sell assets including its Bruce Power Canadian power company – likely to be worth around £400m.