Nuclear operators will have to pay the first GBP1bn ($1.6bn) towards the cost of any accident in the UK – seven times more than the current cap on their liabilities – the government will propose today (Monday).
Energy secretary Chris Huhne told the Observer that he wanted to introduce the new rule to ensure that there would be no public subsidy for nuclear power. Currently, any operator of a nuclear site only has to pay the first GBP140m towards clean-up costs, with the taxpayer contributing the rest.
The cap, enshrined in European treaties, was introduced because no company can obtain insurance against a nuclear accident – or would want to shoulder the risk themselves – because the costs could potentially be limitless.
Huhne said: "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. We are taking steps to reduce any risk of the taxpayer having to pick up the tab for new nuclear [power] 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 government will consult with the industry on the proposed new GBP1bn threshold expected to be introduced this year at the same time as other European countries change their cap.
Under the European proposals, in future nuclear operators must pay a minimum of the first EUR700m ($953m) for any accident. Governments have the option of adding a maximum of an extra EUR500m towards companies' liabilities. Huhne is proposing to load the maximum liability onto companies that is allowed under the new treaties.
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