A NEXT generation nuclear reactor could be built in North Lancashire following a Government announcement giving a green light to the controversial industry.

British Energy, who own and operate eight nuclear power stations in the UK, including two at Heysham, has said it will be looking to build a new reactor at its Morecambe Bay site, the Westmorland Gazette can reveal.

The company is due to close its Heysham 1 reactor in 2018 and would like to have a replacement operational before 2020.

A spokesman for British Energy said: "If we are committed to nuclear playing a part in the UK's energy mix then as plants such as Heysham 1 reach the end of their lives we will need to have the next generation of plants in place - on the existing sites because we already own the land.

"We will be working towards having everything in place to replace Heysham 1 by the end of the next decade.

"It will be important to have detailed and exhaustive consultation with our local stakeholders."

Business Secretary John Hutton told MPs, on Thursday, that nuclear power is a safe and affordable way to keep the nation's lights on while also reducing the UK's impact on climate change.

Electricity companies have welcomed the news and will be seeking locations to build the next generation of reactors.

British Energy has joined the industry's support for the Government's announcement.

Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy, said: "The Government's decision is good news for the people of the UK today, and for future generations. A balanced energy policy of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and new electricity generation from clean fossil fuels, renewables, and nuclear power can provide reliable, affordable electricity to meet both our energy security and climate change goals. A balanced policy is the only credible solution for the UK to tackle the energy challenges it faces."

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