Building nuclear power stations would risk landing future generations with 'difficult' legacies, the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, warns today in a clear rebuff to the nuclear industry.
The rise of global warming has brought calls for Britain to rely more heavily on 'greener' nuclear power, which generates fewer greenhouse gases.
Beckett admitted that the threat of global warming had left people in 'uncharted waters', with the possibility of Britain being plunged into a Siberian freeze if changing temperatures disrupted the Gulf Stream.
However, she rejected demands from a growing lobby, including former energy minister Brian Wilson, for a significant expansion of nuclear power, ruling out new stations for at least the next 15 years.
'The long and short of it is we certainly do not need extra nuclear power in anything like a 10, 15-year cycle' she said, in an interview for ITV's The Jonathan Dimbleby Programme, to be screened today.
Her words will also be seen as a rebuke to Downing Street, seen as keener on nuclear power than Beckett's own department and the Department of Trade and Industry.
A senior DTI official recently concluded that nuclear power would have to provide half of Britain's electricity needs by 2050 if the country was to meet its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It provides only a fifth, but its reactors are ageing and will start to have to be closed down by 2008.
Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said Beckett was right to highlight the long-term impact of nuclear power.