"The threat of climate change means we need to make a transition from a system that relies heavily on high carbon fossil fuels to a radically different system that includes nuclear, renewable and clean coal power," he said.

He said the new plants could provide 40 per cent of the country's electricity by 2025, and that the UK plans to generate 30 per cent of electricty by renewable sources by 2020.

All but one of Britain's existing nuclear plants are due to close by 2023. The new 10 nuclear sites, many of which are near existing nuclear facilities, include three in Cumbria, northwest England, near the Sellafield reprocessing plant.

The government's new planning rules, while include nuclear plants, renewable energy and fossil fuels, have raised fears that they could stifle the voice of local protesters opposed to new developments.

But Miliband played down the concern, saying the current system was a "barrier" to progress.

Greg Clark, the opposition energy spokesman for the Conservative party, said the government was attempting a "last minute scramble" in the face of looming energy shortages.