Government hikes up nuclear liability to £1bn

Operators of nuclear power stations will have to take on liability of £1bn for each of their sites in case of an accident – a seven-fold increase on the current […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Operators of nuclear power stations will have to take on liability of £1bn for each of their sites in case of an accident – a seven-fold increase on the current level of £140m.

The new liability figure was unveiled today by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, who visited the proposed site of a new nuclear plant at Hinckley Point in Somerset.

He said: “The coalition is clear on new nuclear: it has a role to play as part of a diverse energy mix in meeting the UK’s future needs, but it will not receive any public subsidy.

“Nuclear power is low carbon, secure and there is clearly an appetite from the private sector to build.The government is determined to provide certainty to low carbon investors, but there will be no public subsidy for nuclear power which is a mature technology.”

He added: “We are taking steps to reduce any risk of the taxpayer having to pick up the tab for new nuclear further down the track.We’ve already set out how operators will be required to put aside money from day one for their eventual clean up and waste storage, and now we’re increasing substantially the liability to be taken on by operators.”

The proposal to require operators to take on liability of £1bn for each of their sites follows changes to the Paris and Brussels Conventions on nuclear third party liability.

The UK is a signatory to the Paris Convention on nuclear third party liability and Brussels Supplementary Convention and has been since their inception in the 1960s.The conventions establish an international (largely western European) framework for compensating victims of a nuclear incident and are implemented in the UK by the Nuclear Installations Act 1965.

The conventions have been revised periodically, the last time in 2004.The most recent amendments upgrade the existing regime and are intended to ensure that, in the event of a nuclear incident, an increased amount of compensation will be available to a larger number of victims in respect of a broader range of damage than is currently the case.

Mr Huhne also revealed today that there will also be an increase in the categories of damage for which operators are liable, to include damage related to the environment. The geographical scope of those eligible to claim compensation will be widened, and any liabilities will be channelled automatically to the nuclear operator.

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