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Public have their say on future of nuclear power in the UK

Public have their say on future of nuclear power in the UK

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM News Release (Reference 2007/041) issued by The Government News Network on 7 September 2007

The public takes centre stage tomorrow (Saturday 8 September) in the Government's continuing consultation about the future of nuclear power in the UK. In one of the largest ever exercises of its kind, Ministers will canvass the views of a demographically representative sample of 1,100 citizens simultaneously across nine UK cities.

Evidence from the events in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Newcastle and Norwich will help inform the decision due to be made later this year on whether it is in the public interest to give energy companies the option of building new nuclear power stations.

Keeping the lights on for the decades ahead whilst also cutting carbon emissions is one of the biggest challenges of our time and there are tough decisions to be made. That's why these events are important and government will be listening to the public's views this weekend.

The Government has reached the preliminary view that new nuclear would be in the public interest because it believes it has the potential to make an important contribution to the UK's energy security and to help to reduce the amount of carbon we emit.

Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Enterprise, John Hutton said:

'Time is pressing, with most of the UK's existing nuclear power stations set to close over the next couple of decades, we must make a decision on the future of nuclear power this year. It is right that we debate the pros and cons - our livelihoods and the future health of the planet depend on us getting this right.

'The decision will be based on a careful consideration of all the evidence gathered during our consultation. That includes the views of the general public and those of the business community, energy companies, green groups and academics.'

During the events, participants will be provided with information to help them understand further the issues involved and they will spend the day debating amongst themselves issues such as safety, security, waste management and the energy mix. Participants' views will be captured by facilitators who will sit with them during the discussions. They will also be asked a number of polling questions relating to the material presented and asked to answer these using electronic handsets. The polling results and a summary of key trends and issues arising will be available throughout the day.

Viki Cooke, Joint Chief Executive of Opinion Leader Research said:

'These events, which we are expecting to be on the largest scale government has ever conducted before, have been designed to give participants information about the issues and time to debate and discuss them with others. We will use a wide range of interactive techniques to make the information accessible and engaging.

'Each event is intended to be demographically representative of the region or nation where it is being held, enabling us to build up a robust picture of the general public's views at a national level.'

The consultation is running for 20 weeks in total. The Government has commissioned a range of specialist organisations to conduct and evaluate the consultation.

As well as the deliberative exercise, other important elements of the consultation are:

* A consultation document, 'The Future of Nuclear Power', was published on 23 May electronically, in hard copy, in Welsh, Braille, audio and large print. This sets out over more than 200 pages the range of issues relating to nuclear power and asks for responses to 18 key questions by 10 October.

* A dedicated interactive website went live in parallel - http://www.direct.gov.uk/nuclearpower2007. This is designed to make the consultation document more accessible, splitting it into sections with dialogue boxes to capture views as respondents click through. 1200 responses have been received so far.

* A series of twelve regional stakeholder events across the UK which aim to capture the views of various stakeholders including local authorities, green groups, energy companies, business, consumer groups, unions faith groups and academics.

* Meetings with existing nuclear site stakeholder groups to hear from those who live near existing sites.

* Ministerial roundtable events in September to hear from leaders of business, City investors, unions and environmental groups about their views.

* Direct mail to more than 5,000 grassroots and community organisations to raise awareness of the consultation among local authorities, business networks, student unions, the Women's Institute, faith groups, volunteer groups, science groups and professional institutions.

* An information advertising campaign in national and regional newspapers to inform members of the public about the consultation and how to respond.

* Other ad hoc engagement with relevant organisations, for example attendance at the Youth Parliament in Strathclyde to hear from its members.

In total it is expected that 1,800 people will be directly consulted through the different events which are part of the consultation process. The Government expects to make a decision on the issue of new nuclear power later this year.

John Hutton will be taking part in a live web chat about the events on Monday 10 September at 10:00 BST on the No.10 website. Notes to Editors:

1. The deliberative events are qualitative in nature. The Government is interested in understanding what issues people are concerned about and why. Throughout the day they key themes and trends from around the UK will be available. The polling results on the day will not be final and will not be representative. They will be preliminary data rather than the final weighted results which will need to be statistically weighted. The final statistically weighted results will be published early in the week commencing 10 September.

2. The consultation began on 23 May and will last for 20 weeks, ending on October 10.

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