An EDF bid for British Energy may have been the favourite means to further the government's nuclear ambitions but it is not the only option.
A merger of EDF and British Energy would have brought together two companies with nuclear expertise; one with the ideal UK sites for new nuclear generation because they are already licensed and connected to the national grid; the other with the means and experience to build new plants.
The combination was also likely to have drawn in
The French and British nuclear generators may still get together. Yesterday EDF's executives were tied up in the announcement of the company's first-half profits and are unlikely to refocus on British Energy until next week. "It will take a few days for the dust to settle," said a source yesterday.
Both companies have a plan B. Though British Energy is seen as too small to build
It is unlikely to be short of offers: a number of companies, including
Many in Europe's energy industry are keen to see new nuclear plants built in
EDF's plan B involves building its own portfolio of
Even if EDF walks away from a bid for British Energy, its negotiations may have set a benchmark against which other energy companies can judge whether to make an offer themselves.
In the meantime, the government is coming under pressure to act directly, rather than maintain its stance as a minority, if powerful, shareholder in British Energy.
The unions in the industry are already pushing for action. Dougie Rooney, national officer at Unite, said yesterday: "The government must force British Energy to make available their sites in order that international consortiums can build the next generation of [nuclear] power stations."
Paul Noon, general secretary of Prospect union, said the government needed to act quickly to ensure that, if it was not going to build new nuclear plants itself, it provided the right framework for the private sector to invest. "We do not have the luxury of time. Failure to act now will result in huge problems over the next 10 years, with the
There are those who argue that nuclear should not be an option at all and that pressing ahead with new nuclear plants would squeeze out renewable capacity. Nathan Argent, head of Greenpeace's nuclear campaign, said: "A push for more nuclear power would scupper the