UK/Sizewell: Government pledges millions to communities hosting new nuclear reactors

Sizewell C proposal

Sizewell C proposal - Credit: Copyright EDF Energy 2012 - Stag

The Government has pledged to pay communities millions of pounds in benefits for hosting new nuclear reactors in their area.

The plans set out today by Energy Minister Michael Fallon would be worth about £128 million to the area around Hinkley Point, Somerset, where the Government hopes EDF will build the first of a new generation of nuclear power plants.

The package will see local authorities benefit for up to the first 10 years of operation of a nuclear power plant from a share of the increased business rates revenues that will be generated.

The second phase of the programme will deliver annual taxpayer-funded payments between 2030 and 2060 from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to communities hosting nuclear power plants.

Community benefits packages have been announced for other controversial energy infrastructure, including onshore wind farms and “fracking” for shale gas, but in those cases the developer will pay for them.

Construction of the first of a planned new generation of nuclear reactors, as part of Government efforts to cut carbon emissions from energy generation and keep the lights on, has stalled as EDF and officials have so far failed to agree a price for the electricity which will be generated from the Hinkley Point site.

Mr Fallon said: “New nuclear will have a central role to play in our energy strategy, providing heat and light to homes across the country.

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“It is absolutely essential that we recognise the contributions of those communities that host major new energy projects.

“This package is in the interests of local people, who will manage it to ensure long-term meaningful benefit to the community.

“It’s proportionate to the scale and lifespan of new nuclear power stations and it builds on the major economic benefits they will bring in terms of jobs, investment and use of local services.”

But Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “Whilst wind farms and even shale gas developers have to pay community benefits, only nuclear stations will get a fat taxpayer subsidy to fund them.

“Our entire energy policy is now absurdly distorted by the desperation to prop up EDF’s faltering Hinkley C project, with the Government piling the costs on to the taxpayer to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they backed the wrong technology.

“We can’t go on like this.”