Energy firms to foot nuclear waste bill

Nuclear power station operators will bear the cost of managing nuclear waste and decommissioning, the government has announced.

Business secretary John Hutton has published draft guidance on how energy firms planning to build nuclear power stations will pay for decommissioning costs.

The upcoming energy bill will require companies to demonstrate plans for decommissioning and establish a fund to pay from “day one” of electricity generation.

A consultation on today’s proposals will run until May and follows the government’s announcement on January 10th it would support the development of new nuclear power plants to meet the UK’s energy needs.

Mr Hutton said he was determined energy firms would protect the taxpayer from the clean-up costs “down the line”.

“Let me be clear – full means full,” he said.

“Funds will be sufficient, secure and independent, it will be a criminal offence not to comply with the approved arrangements and we are taking powers to guard against unforeseen shortfalls.”

The government hopes to set a fixed unit price for the disposal of nuclear waste which will be “over and above expected costs”.

This added premium will be for the taxpayers’ benefit, to prevent unexpected increases in costs exposing the public purse unnecessarily.

Making energy firms liable by law to these costs will ensure “material protection” for the taxpayer, it adds.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said it expected the first energy firm to decide to proceed with building a new nuclear power station in Britain “in principle” by mid-2009.