By Richard Porritt
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
ENERGY giant EDF is in talks with the Government over a potential raid on the public purse to underwrite the costs of building new nuclear reactors.
The news comes after one of EDF’s major backers for its planned new Sizewell C reactor on the Suffolk coast, Centrica, pulled a promised £2bn from the project.
But the move is set to spark controversy after Prime Minister David Cameron vowed his Government would not subsidise any new nuclear projects from public funds.
But sources close to Government yesterday confirmed talks were at a “very early stage”. It is thought the main focus so far has been on EDF’s plans for a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
But that focus is likely to shift to Sizewell - a project EDF remain confident about - if the initial talks prove successful.
The talks come as public support for nuclear power is apparently waning. A survey released yesterday by Ipsos Mori showed 20% of people were strongly against while 38% were undecided.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey believes everything possible must be done to ensure the project goes ahead in Suffolk.
She said: “From what I can tell this is cash for shovel-ready projects announced last year - and the hope is it will help lower the remaining debt making it more attractive for lenders.
“If the stimulus is on the table I think EDF are quite right to go for it but it may not be available when it comes to Sizewell C.
“It is vital that these projects are successful for what they will bring to the area and beyond.”
But the chairman of Shutdown Sizewell Campaign, Charles Barnett, called the talks “highly suspicious”.
“The Government might have said publicly that they were not going to subsidise nuclear but they have always been desperate for this to work - so I am not surprised,” he said.
“Whatever happens it will be to the detriment of this country - if we have to pay up or not if Sizewell C is built the waste it will produce will have a huge impact. We need to look elsewhere - like renewable energy like off-shore windfarms are the future.”
Commenting on the apparent shift in the public’s views on nuclear Robert Knight, research director for Ipsos Mori, said: “The uncertainty surrounding the future of nuclear power in the UK is starting to take its toll on public support.
“It’s not that the public are actively opposing it; it’s more about confusion at the intentions of the industry and the Government.”
EDF refused to comment.