The nuclear industry enjoys a subsidy of at least £2.3bn a year and is in line for more public support under government plans to offer guaranteed prices for low-carbon power, a new report says.The research, commissioned by the environmental audit committee of MPs, risks inflaming the already heated debate about public support for new atomic power.
The government, which has repeatedly insisted there will be no subsidy, believes the UK needs to build reactors to help “keep the lights on” and meet tough carbon reduction targets.
Reforms in the coalition’s energy bill, which continues its slow passage through parliament, include measures to support low-carbon sources of power such as nuclear and wind.
Opponents of new nuclear have said that the proposed “contract for difference” being offered to France’s EDF – which guarantees a long-term fixed price for low-carbon generators – constitutes public support. The company remains locked in talks with ministers over the level of the “strike price”.
It said on Tuesday it was cutting the number of people working on the project at Hinkley Point C, the site of the first new reactor but added that negotiations with the government were “making progress”.
The authors concede that the atomic industry operates in “a somewhat protected commercial environment because . . . each plant is too big to fail”.The bulk of the current £2.3bn subsidy is in the form of funding to deal with legacy nuclear waste.
William Blyth, author of the report, said: “You would normally expect the decommissioning budget to be picked up by the private sector, as will be the case for future plants.”
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