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Nuclear power only insurable by ‘gullible governments’

Nuclear power only insurable by ‘gullible governments’

Nuclear power is only economically sound because taxpayers will have to pay to clean up after any radioactive incidents during decommissioning, according to Labour MP Paul Flynn.

Mathew Beech,

Utility Week, 2014-02-25

"Nuclear installations are uninsurable in normal commercial terms. Only gullible governments can bear the enormous risk. If operators paid for their own insurance indemnities, their case for economic production of nuclear electricity collapses," said Flynn. He dismissed government comments downplaying the risk: “If risk is minimal, nuclear sites could be insured commercially.”

His comments came after the government revealed that private contractors taken on to decommission the UK’s fifty-year old Magnox nuclear plants would be indemnified against liability in the event of a radioactive incident. Flynn claimed the indemnification exposed the public purse to potentially enormous costs as witnessed following Japan’s catastrophe at Fukishima. "The cost of the Fukushima cleanup and damages ranges from £150 billion to £300 billion and rising,” Flynn said

Flynn’s outburst came only days after shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, said: "Nuclear power has a vital role to play as part of a more sustainable, balanced and low-carbon future energy mix, to make us less reliant on volatile fossil fuel prices, increase our energy security, and keep prices down for families.” She was commenting on the UK-France agreement to strengthen co-operation in the development of civil nuclear energy.

In a note to parliament on the indemnity to be given by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to contractors employed in the decommissioning of the old Magnox fleet the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said the contractors "are not prepared to accept liability" for certain claims following nuclear incidents. Decc said “the maximum figure for the potential liability is impossible to accurately quantify," but claimed taxpayers faced a "low probability" of a claim.

Energy minister Michael Fallon, in a written statement to parliament, said the savings from the competitive deal struck with new contractors outweighed the “small risk that the indemnity may be called upon.” He said the indemnity was “prerequisite to awarding the contract and securing the benefits of the competition.”