Senior civil servants have revealed that the government’s decision to build a new generation of civil nuclear power stations starting with Hinkley Point is linked to maintaining enough skills to keep Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
The disclosure came at a hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee looking at the huge cost of building Hinkley Point power station which critics see as uneconomic and not properly costed.
It was raised in a paper submitted to the committee by Professor Andy Stirling, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and Dr Phil Johnstone, from the Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University, which questioned whether the Ministry of Defence is being subsidized by the civil nuclear industry.
Their paper pointed out this is never publicly discussed but added: “If a UK withdrawal from civil nuclear power on grounds of uncompetitive economics were to leave these shared costs borne entirely on the military side, then UK military nuclear infrastructures would be significantly more expensive.
“If civil nuclear commitments are being maintained (despite adverse economics) in order to help cover these shared costs, then it is this that amounts to a cross-subsidy.”
The Sussex University paper also pointed out that private industry was making the link. Their paper said: “Rolls Royce acknowledged for the first time in a major public statement, that there also exists a deep interlinkage between British civil and military nuclear industrial capabilities … stating that “expansion of a nuclear-capable skilled workforce through a civil nuclear UK programme would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability. This would free up valuable resources for other investments.”