EDF Energy has received sufficient reassurances from the new Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, to continue planning for a new generation of nuclear plants in Britain. Apparently the £20bn building programme will to go ahead without subsidies, yet a nuclear power station is yet to be built without public subsidy. However, on 2 June The Guardian revealed that EDF has been engaging in a secret lobbying campaign regarding the disposal costs of waste from the new reactors, which amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of the nuclear industry. The government already faces a £4 billion funding black hole over existing nuclear waste. Freedom of Information requests have shown extensive lobbying by EDF and have revealed that its claim not to need subsidies for the new nuclear build is false.
The final decision on whether to proceed with a new generation of nuclear plants is not due to be taken until 2011, which means there is time to continue highlighting the serious problems with nuclear power and the alternative technologies that are the only real solution to tackling climate change.
The EDF Group consists of over 70 affiliates and investments in addition to the parent company. The Group has Europe’s largest electricity generation capacity and the world’s largest nuclear capacity. EDF plans to to build four new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk that would generate enough power to light 40% of Britain’s homes or the equivalent of 13% of all UK electricity.
New nuclear build is also being criticised in the light of problems with existing power plants. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has closed down a nuclear waste plant at Sellafield and is taking legal action to improve safety procedures, including those in place to prevent radioactive leaks, calling into question the claims that nuclear power is efficient and safe enough to warrant the new generation of reactors. This also draws attention to the fact that Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) has made massive profits for supposedly improving the efficiency of Sellafield over the last year. Sellafield Ltd. is the company that runs the site and admits there are ‘challenges’, but this is entirely insufficient given that Sellafield has the world’s most dangerous stockpile of nuclear waste. The company has been given £1.5 billion this year to reduce the hazards.
The latest energy-policy opinion poll conducted by YouGov and EDF Energy, which is one of the largest of its kind, was conducted immediately after the general election in May 2010. It showed that there is apparently growing support for nuclear power, even from Lib Dem supporters who have traditionally been among the most negative towards it. However, this poll is clearly not unbiased and there is still widespread resistance to new nuclear power from many different groups, from Lib Dems to the Stop Nuclear Power Network, who carried out blockades earlier this year, which Corporate Watch reported about in our last News Update.