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This Week It Is Nuclear?

Posted in Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the July 14th, 2008

A couple of weeks ago Gordon Brown announced that the UK would be investing massively in renewable energy. Yesterday, in a speech at the end of President Sarkozky’s Mediterranean summit in Paris, Mr. Brown called for “a renaissance of nuclear power”, though to be fair he did mention “massive expansion” of renewable energy as well. Given the looming urgency caused by the imminent retirement of Britain’s fleet of existing nuclear power stations, it would not be surprising to hear Mr. Brown call for massive investment in fossil fuel generation as well.

The real question, however, is all about money. Who is actually going to build any of this new plant? The Guardian quotes a Downing Street source as saying, “The industry will not make the long-term investment required to build a new nuclear power station if they think the government is not totally committed to nuclear energy.” This seems very likely. But given the continuing reluctance of anyone to buy British Energy, total government commitment may not be enough.

One issue that may be giving investors pause for thought is the cost of decommissioning. A report issued last week by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee put the current cost of decommissioning the existing nuclear fleet at £73 billion ($146bn) and rising fast. Who would have to foot the bill for decommissioning any new plants that get built? The Daily Telegraph quotes a government spokesman as saying:

As for the building of new nuclear power stations, we’ve been clear from the very start that energy companies – not taxpayers – must meet the full costs of eventual decommissioning of new nuclear power stations and their full share of waste management and disposal costs.

Anyone fancy taking on that obligation?

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