Climate campaigners in Eastleigh were left reeling today as the Towns MP Chris Huhne, who is also Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, announced he would be would be axing a major renewable tidal energy project in favour of building eight new nuclear power stations.
In a special election hustings debate on climate change which was held on April 30th at Barton Peveril College, Mr Huhne told climate change campaigners that taxpayers subsidies would be:
“Better used on renewable technologies which could be brought forward more quickly than building a new generation of nuclear power stations.”
The Liberal Democrat cabinet minister told the meeting which had been called by a coalition of various campaigning groups including Greenpeace, Christian Aid, and Friends of the Earth that nuclear power stations cannot be built without some kind of government subsidy either by guaranteeing the price of energy or by paying for the cleanup costs.
“The real skill of the nuclear industry is getting taxpayer’s money out of governments not generating electricity.”
During the hustings debate Mr Huhne also suggested it was impossible to build nuclear reactors without taxpayers underwriting the project as since the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters, it was no longer possible to obtain insurance for reactors
However in today’s announcement Mr. Huhne contradicted this, claiming the reactors could be built without any subsidy at all.
Writing in the Guardian today, Jean McSorley, a Greenpeace consultant, said:
“There is a substantial risk of underestimating the cost of disposing of waste from new reactors. Any shortfall would have to be paid by the taxpayer, resulting in a significant subsidy to the nuclear industry.”
This is the third major policy reversal by the Liberal Democrats after they supported a rise in VAT to 20% and dropped their opposition to a rise in student tuition fees – despite signing pre election pledges to the contrary.
Photo:© Les Powell