Ministers warned of nuclear 'albatross'

Sunday, March 2, 2008

THE nuclear industry is an economic “basket case” and will continue to be a “financial albatross” for the taxpayer, the Government was warned today.

Labour’s Newport West MP Paul Flynn told the Commons the “immense” cost of cleaning up nuclear waste – which he said was £73 billion – was probably an underestimate. The bill would amount to £3,000 for every family in the country.

At question time he asked why the Government had committed to a new generation of nuclear power stations given the clean-up legacy of current reactors.

But Business Secretary John Hutton said the economics of nuclear power had “changed dramatically” because of climate change and the introduction of carbon pricing. It would be “stupid” to deny citizens access to reliable electricity.

He later told Tory Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) that he hoped construction would start on the first of the new nuclear power stations in “three or four years”.

Mr Hutton added: “I think it would be in the UK’s national interest to move ahead with this programme as quickly as possible.”

Earlier Mr Flynn said: “We learned this week that the already immense cost of £73 billion to clear up the present legacy of nuclear waste is probably an underestimate, and that the taxpayers are likely to have a bill of at least £3,000 for each family.

“The nuclear industry has never paid its own way, it has always been an economic basket case.

“Why are we so committed to future technology of nuclear power when we know that is going to fix a new financial albatross around the necks of taxpayers?”

Mr Hutton said: “We are supporting a new generation of nuclear power in this country for all the reasons that we set out in the nuclear White Paper.

“The economics of nuclear power has changed dramatically because of the science of climate change and the introduction of carbon pricing.

“I think it would be stupid if we were to deny the UK and future citizens of the UK the same access to reliable electricity that this generation and previous ones have enjoyed.

“Nuclear can play a role in the future. We should be prepared to give it that opportunity.”

He stressed that while the taxpayer had to pay clean-up costs for present nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning, private sector operators would have to pick up the bill for future waste.

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