Government to hike accident cover for nuclear plants

LONDON (Reuters) - The energy ministry proposed on Monday implementing a 1.2 billion euro (1 billion pound) liability cost per nuclear site on generators to cover the consequences of accidents.

The proposal aligns British law with a pan-European treaty signed in 2004, which set out that nuclear power station operators should face a minimum of 700 million euros in costs payable in case of an accident.

Nuclear power operators in Britain are obliged to pay 140 million pounds towards accident clean-up costs.

The law could come into force in early 2012, if approved in parliament and if other European member states implement the same new rules, a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

The liability cost could be gradually phased in over a five-year period, starting at a cost of 700 million euros and then rising to 1.2 billion euros after five years, the spokesman added.

“The government is determined to provide certainty to low carbon investors, but there will be no public subsidy for nuclear power which is a mature technology,” said Britain’s Energy and Climate Change minister Chris Huhne on Monday.

“We are taking steps to reduce any risk of the taxpayer having to pick up the tab for new nuclear further down the track.”


The government’s consultation on a list of sites proposed for hosting new nuclear power stations in Britain closes at midnight on Monday and has attracted more than 1,500 responses, the energy ministry also said on Monday.

In October, the government published a list of eight sites which it found suitable for new nuclear plants. The list cut out two locations proposed by German utility RWE at Kirksanton and Braystones.

“Ministers will consider the consultation responses before putting a final list to Parliament for approval,” the energy ministry said in a statement.

Nuclear power operator EDF is expected to be the first utility to open a new nuclear plant in Britain in 2018.

Around 5,000 workers will be based on the site at Hinkley Point C at peak construction time and 900 permanent staff will be employed.

Groups opposed to nuclear power in Britain say that new nuclear plants are unable to be built without public subsidies and that the government seeks to support nuclear power “through the back door”.

Reporting by Karolin Schaps, editing by William Hardy