The possibility of Britain's first nuclear waste dump being built in the Midlands was back on the political agenda last night after Warwickshire County Council refused to rule out the idea.
Councillors said they wanted to keep all options open and voted by 31 to 11 to reject a resolution opposing the disposal in Warwickshire or transportation through the county of nuclear waste.
While county council leader Alan Farnell said there were no immediate plans to respond to Environment Secretary David Miliband's request for local authorities to volunteer possible dumping sites, he confirmed that experts would be drafted in to report in full to the council about the safety or otherwise of nuclear power.
There would be a full debate and no options were being discounted at the moment, he added.
Twelve possible sites in Warwickshire for the burial of nuclear waste are among scores of locations identified throughout the country by Nirex.
Mr Miliband said he would not force local authorities to come up with sites, but held out the inducement of lucrative cash grants for councils putting land forward for consideration.
The Conservatives, who run Warwickshire with a minority administration, teamed up with a number of Labour councillors to defeat an anti-nuclear power Liberal Democrat resolution.
Chris Saint, the cabinet member for planning and economic development, said Britain could learn lessons about nuclear power from the French, Spanish and Italians. They were not "pussy footing about", but were getting on with building nuclear power plants because they recognised the need to do so, he said.
Coun Saint (Con Stratford) added: "The simple fact is that nuclear power was discounted because it was cheaper to burn fossil fuels. Now we realise that's a problem, we might just have to pay the price for proper nuclear disposal."
New nuclear power plants could be the salvation of Britain's energy needs, he said.
Coun Saint added: "We have to make sure things are dealt with safely and the waste is disposed of safely.
"I think the Government is more or less right. This surely must be the future. We must keep all options open."
Liberal Democrat county councillor John Whitehouse said he regretted that Warwickshire was in the "front line" of the nuclear power debate. Nuclear power was unsafe and costly, with every person in the country already paying the equivalent of #1,500 a year to clear up waste from the existing generation of nuclear reactors, he said.
Coun Whitehouse added: "New nuclear power stations are completely contrary to the findings of the Government's Energy Sustainability Commission which found no justification for a nuclear programme."
Coun Ken Browne (Lab Warwick) said it would be a mistake to regard nuclear power as a quick fix for global warming. "If it is such a fantastic fix and has so many benefits for the private sector, why hasn't it been developed to a larger market already? The simple answer is the enormous cost. It runs into billions of pounds," he added.
A doubling of Britain's nuclear power output by 2035 would only lead to an eight per cent reduction in carbon emissions, Coun Browne claimed.
However, Coun Gordon Collett (Con Rugby) believed the development of nuclear power was the only way Britain could guarantee future electricity supplies.
"The worst situation would be to rely on oil and gas coming from places like Russia and the unstable Middle East. It would only need some idiot to turn the taps off and without sufficient back-up from nuclear power we would be stymied," he added. Last night Chris Crean, West Midlands spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said it highlighted the need for a full public debate.
He said nuclear power was being "foisted" on the public even though the economic case for it had not been justified.