Tony Blair gave an unequivocal signal on Tuesday night that he wanted Britain to build a new generation of nuclear power plants, warning that failure to do so would amount to ‘a serious dereliction of our duty to the future of this country’.

Anticipating the results of an energy review to be published by his government in the next few months, the prime minister left no doubt that Britain’s ageing nuclear reactors would be replaced.

If Mr Blair carries the day, it would mean that nuclear power would continue to provide at least 20 per cent of the UK’s total energy needs in 2025.

Mr Blair told the CBI, Britain’s employer organisation, that he had this week received an early draft of the energy review. He said the implications of the report “for Britain’s climate change targets and energy security” were stark.

“By 2025, if current policy is unchanged, there will be a dramatic gap on our targets to reduce CO2 emissions,” he said. “We will become heavily dependent on gas and, at the same time, move from being 80-90 per cent self-reliant in gas to 80-90 per cent dependent on foreign imports – mostly from the Middle East, and Africa and Russia.”

Mr Blair said: “These facts put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables and a step change on energy efficiency – engaging both business and consumers – back on the agenda with a vengeance.”

The prime minister has been indicating privately for some time that the energy review and a subsequent white paper would give the go-ahead to the nuclear programme. Tuesday night’s comments, coming just weeks before the review is published, now put the review’s conclusions beyond doubt.

Mr Blair’s decision to give a foretaste of the review’s conclusions is part of a new effort on his part to show that his government has a strong policy agenda.

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