BUSINESS Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is considering extending the life of the Hinkley Point B plant - but only if the nuclear power station complies with “safety certification”.

Mr Kwarteng has written to the owners of the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations to ask them to stay open longer than planned, and Hinkley Point B could also be given an extension.

Culture minister Chris Philp, appearing on Times Radio, described the Business Secretary’s actions as “sensible” and “precautionary” and when asked about the risks of keeping Hinkley Point B open, the culture minister stressed that for the Government “safety is paramount”.

He said no extension to the life of any power station in the UK would take place “unless the safety certification had been done in a very thorough way”.

Hinkley Point B is due to move into decommissioning by July.

Mr Philp told Times Radio: “(Mr Kwarteng) asked, I think, the three remaining coal-fired power station operators to just keep their power stations available beyond the point of which they were due to be switched off, and I think he is considering whether Hinkley B, the large nuclear power station, might continue beyond its planned end of life as well.

“That’s a sensible precautionary measure, given that gas supply coming out of Russia and Ukraine is, for obvious reasons, so heavily disrupted and we do, of course, use quite a lot of gas to generate electricity.

“Only a very small proportion of that, of course, comes from Russia. A lot of ours comes from Norway and in the form of liquefied natural gas but, of course, disruption to the global gas market will have a knock-on effect that may affect the gas that we consumed domestically in the United Kingdom."

He added: "Obviously when it comes to nuclear power generation, or indeed any power generation, safety is paramount.

“So, no extension to the life of any power station in the UK, least of all a nuclear one, would take place unless the safety certification had been done in a very thorough way.

“We obviously have no intention at all of diluting or reducing those world-leading and incredibly high safety standards.”

There are fears that if Russia cuts of more supplies to the EU, six million homes could see their electricity rationed in curbs that may last more than a month.

A Number 10 spokesman downplayed fears of power cuts and energy rationing.

He said: “I think you would expect Government to look at a range of scenarios to ensure plans are robust, no matter how unlikely they are to pass. Neither the Government or National Grid expect power cuts this winter.

“You will know that we are in a fortunate position, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports and have one of the most reliable and diverse energy systems.”