A group of leading energy academics yesterday claimed the Government is considering going back on its pledge never to subsidise nuclear power.
Any policy change would effectively mean taxpayers’ money being given to French energy giant EDF to help it build a new reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset. It would also boost the chances of a new nuclear power station at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
An open letter said: “Energy Minister John Hayes is now considering a major U-turn in energy policy by giving a blank cheque to nuclear by ‘underwriting’ construction costs over-runs.
“This is despite the fact that the key to nuclear is its spiralling cost over-runs.”
The nine academics, including professors at Oxford, Warwick, Sussex and Birmingham universities, say two nuclear reactors are being built in Western Europe at the moment.
The letter concludes: “Whatever one’s view of the risks and benefits of nuclear energy, it is clear that construction cost over-runs are highly likely.
“The taxpayer must not end up footing a multi-billion pound bill for what seem to be inevitable nuclear construction over-runs.”
They were responding to comments by Mr Hayes earlier this month that he would look at “issues surrounding underwriting risk”.
But a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are in preliminary discussions with EDF and Centrica about the potential financial terms on which they might go ahead with their Hinkley Point C project.
“Our focus will be on delivering a fair deal for consumers.
“No commitments or final decisions have been made.”
Meanwhile, talks are continuing on the future of Gloucester-based Horizon, the vehicle to develop Oldbury, and Wylfa on Anglesey in North Wales.
A source close to the discussions told the Daily Press that despite a large amount of irrelevant speculation, the talks were now in the final stages and there would not be too long to wait for an announcement.
MPs will today hear the latest developments in Hinkley when the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee questions key figures from the industry.
The MPs will also quiz supporters of nuclear power including Sir Bernard Ingham, former spin doctor to Margaret Thatcher, and opponents including Richard George of Greenpeace.
STOP HINKLEY PROTEST - OCTOBER 6, 2012