The British government on Thursday approved construction of the first new nuclear power plants in a generation, saying atomic energy could help fight climate change and secure the country’s energy supplies in an increasingly unstable world.
Britain joins a growing list of countries rethinking the long-unpopular nuclear option, driven by global warming, geopolitical uncertainty and rising fuel prices. Environmentalists, however, condemned the move as an expensive and dangerous folly that would divert resources from the search for genuinely clean forms of energy.
The government did not announce plans for specific new nuclear facilities but said it would consider proposals from international energy companies. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the government was “inviting companies to express an interest in building a new generation of power stations to replace the existing ones.”
European countries vary widely on atomic power, from complete rejection – in Italy and Denmark, for example – to a warm embrace in France, which gets more than 70 percent of its electricity from 59 nuclear reactors.
Bomber kills 23 near courthouse
In the first major suicide attack since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto two weeks ago, a bomber blew himself up Thursday in front of a provincial high court building, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 60 others.
The attack in the eastern city of Lahore was viewed as a possible harbinger of an outbreak of violence in the weeks before parliamentary elections Feb. 18. Police were put on high alert across the country.
The blast came moments before a weekly demonstration by opposition lawyers and on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Moharram.
It was not clear whether the intended target in Thursday’s bombing was the lawyers or the large contingent of police standing by in preparation for the protest.
Nearly all of those killed in the explosion in the city center were police officers, but dozens of passers-by were among the injured. Although no group took immediate responsibility, Islamic militants have been blamed for more than 50 suicide attacks in Pakistan last year, many of them targeting government installations and security forces.