West Midlands businesses have welcomed the Government's decision to back a new generation of nuclear power stations, but made clear it was not the long-term solution to the UK's energy problems.

Mike Cherry, West Midlands policy unit chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the commitment would please smaller firms.

He added: "The main concern of our members is that we have a safe, secure, affordable and, most importantly, sustainable source of energy to enable us to run our businesses in the best way possible."

As well as supporting the announcement, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it wanted to see increased investment into the research of clean energy.

BCI head of policy, Charlotte Ritchie, said: "There is no doubt that nuclear energy should be a part of the govern-ment's long-term energy strategy. Not only is it a low CO2 emitter, it is also a secure and sustainable supply of energy.

"However, diversity of supply is crucial.

"It is vital that the development and maintenance of a wide range of energy sources are promoted to avoid the vulnerability of over-dependence on one prime source."

Alternative renewable energy capacity needs to be the way forward in the much longer term, Ms Ritchie said, adding that there was a need for a "clear focus on and substantial investment into research and development in this area."

Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, agreed that nuclear was not the only answer and welcomed the Government's commitment to a "diverse energy mix".

He also welcomed the decision to rule out public subsidy for nuclear and to ensure that decommissioning and waste disposal costs are met by operators.

Power generating group E.ON, which has its UK base in Worcester, welcomed the opportunity to replace nuclear power stations in the UK.

It is already taking part in prelicensing using designs by nuclear power station constructors Areva and Westinghouse.

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, said: "This is good news for the UK and for the battle against climate change, and we're very keen to be involved in this replacement programme.

"New nuclear power stations can make a very real impact in the battle against global warming and ensure that we as a country are less reliant on imported gas, particularly as world oil and gas prices continue to increase relentlessly." E.ON UK plans to spend more than £1 billion a year on building a mixture of nuclear, coal, gas and renewable power stations, Mr Golby added.