EDF vows to "engineer out the risk" from nuclear

EDF Energy today stressed its nuclear safety credentials and vowed to “engineer out the risk” of an accident at its power stations. EDF, the biggest user of nuclear power in […]

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By Kelvin Ross

EDF Energy today stressed its nuclear safety credentials and vowed to “engineer out the risk” of an accident at its power stations.

EDF, the biggest user of nuclear power in the UK among utility providers, was responding to the government’s move to increase seven-fold the liability payments that operators of nuclear installations must pay.

Previously, the insurance figure was £140m: now it is £1bn per power station.

But EDF stated: “Liability in the event of an incident is only part of the answer. We believe it is far more important to engineer out the risk of an incident than to simply insure against it.

“In fact, the government protects the taxpayer best by ensuring through regulation that the highest possible standards of construction and operation are maintained with a view to safety. Safety is the number one priority for EDF Energy and the nuclear industry.”

EDF, which wants to build a new power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, stressed that it had never “made any claims on our insurance for a nuclear incident”.

Under proposed new arrangements revealed by the government yesterday, nuclear operators will need to meet third party liabilities covering a far broader scope than at the moment, including economic losses resulting from an accident, damage to the environment, loss of use and enjoyment of the environment, and a higher limit of operator liability.

EDF said that the new rules on third party liability are “uniquely stringent” for the nuclear industry. “It means that in contrast to most industries, the financial security that nuclear operators are required to provide must be ring fenced and so available to third parties even if the underlying event results in the operator going bankrupt,” it stated.

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, and EDF said that it would be looking to see what other countries do to meet the international arrangements. It would also be investigating what insurance cover is available and how the liability regime compares with other energy sectors, such as oil and gas.

Energy Secretary yesterday visited the site of EDF’s proposed new power plant at Hinkley Point and said the project had “the potential to make an important contribution to the UK’s future low carbon, secure energy supplies”.