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No nuclear power station in the world has been built without public subsidy

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Taxpayers could bankroll nuclear clear-up under new Government plans

Tom Levitt

9th December, 2010

Campaign groups say UK officials are underestimating the costs of disposing of nuclear waste and that the taxpayer will end up footing the bill

Government claims that taxpayers will not have to pay for cleaning up the radioactive legacy of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK have been rubbished by campaigners.

Under proposals published this week, nuclear firms will be required by law to put money aside to pay for eventual decommissioning and waste disposal costs. This includes the suggestion for a fixed cost, at three times the current estimates, for dealing with nuclear waste produced by the new power stations.

Energy secretary Charles Hendry said the fixed cost proposals would ensure there was ‘no hidden subsidy and that the taxpayer is protected from costs that are rightly the responsibility of the operator’.

However, environment groups say the proposals are unrealistic about the likely costs of nuclear power. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said Governments had been giving assurances about the cost effectiveness of nuclear power for more than half a century, yet none had ever been run without public subsidies.

‘Given that the UK has been proposing a geological waste repository since the 1970s it is a long way from certain that the final costs of disposal won’t exceed the ‘three times current cost estimates’ that the power companies’ liabilities will be capped at,’ said CND general secretary Kate Hudson.

She added that government plans to charge an additional ‘risk fee’ to compensate the taxpayer for the risk of setting a fixed, capped price would still not be enough to cover the ultimate costs of nuclear.

Both CND and Greenpeace said the UK should be focusing any public incentives to the renewable sector to help the UK meet its goal of 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

‘Rather than using public money to support a mature technology like nuclear, it should be providing the incentives to maximise the UK’s clean energy industry in order to make deep cuts in our carbon emissions and generate a green economic recovery,’ said Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Ben Ayliffe.

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