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UK Govt Says Taxpayers Will Foot Excess Bill for Waste Storage at New Nuke Plant, Docs Reveal

Even ahead of new reporting by Observer critics had warned Hinkley C 'would saddle Britons with eye-watering costs for decades'

Protesters gathered for a demonstration against the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in 2011. (Photo: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/flickr/cc)

The U.K. government agreed to limit what the operator and investors of the newly approved, controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant would have to pay for radioactive waste storage, pushing the rest onto taxpayers, government documents reveal.

The government approved the plant, which will be operated by state-controlled French energy firm, EDF, with financial backing from China, last month.

In its reporting on Sunday, the Observer wrote that one document said there would be a "cap on the liability of the operator of the nuclear power station which would apply in a worst-case scenario."

"The U.K. government accepts that, in setting a cap, the residual risk, of the very worst-case scenarios where actual cost might exceed the cap, is being borne by the government," it stated.

The British paper adds: "Separate documents confirm that the cap also applies should the cost of decommissioning the reactor at the end of its life balloon."

The amount of the cap is unknown, the Observer reported.


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Simon Bullock, senior climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the project's approval last month was "blatantly the wrong decision" and called the plant "a project from a dying era, which would saddle Britons with eye-watering costs for decades, and radioactive waste for millenia."

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"Renewables, smart grids, and energy storage are the fleet-footed mammals racing past this stumbling, inflexible nuclear dinosaur," he added.

The U.K. government's own spending watchdog said earlier this year that "Supporting early new nuclear projects could lead to higher costs in the short term than continuing to support wind and solar. The cost competitiveness of nuclear power is weakening as wind and solar become more established."

However, as the Financial Times wrote Friday, there are five more nuclear power stations planned for the U.K.

And Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark told the House of Commons last month, "Hinkley Point C will inaugurate a new era of UK nuclear power."

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