Nuclear power cheating energy market, say campaigners

An investigation into billions of pounds that have gone missing within Europe's nuclear industry must not be dropped, environmental campaigners have insisted.

The European Commission’s (EC) study into the adequacy and use of so-called “reactor pension funds” was promised two years ago and the results should have been published earlier this year.

But Friends of the Earth (FoE) has voiced fears that this study may have been postponed indefinitely in order to avoid asking awkward questions about potentially huge deficits in nuclear firms across several European countries.

These “nuclear liabilities” funds pay for decommissioning nuclear reactors and managing radioactive nuclear waste after a power plant closes down. However, FoE claims these costs should be covered by the income accumulated during the plant’s lifetime, not government subsidies.

Moreover, varying circumstances across Europe distort competition and lead to an increase in the amount of state subsidies available to the nuclear industry, say FoE, and this causes a considerable disadvantage to the alternative energy sector.

“Nuclear power is cheating the European energy market big time,” FoE campaigner Mark Johnston stated. “Whilst the EC has a legal duty to stop this, it has so far failed to do so. The single energy market cannot be taken seriously unless the nuclear cheats are brought under control.”

In the UK, British Energy Plc is currently seeking EC approval for €6 billion in aid over the next 80 years, and BNFL are also trying to secure a further unspecified amount. According to FoE, many other European countries are currently pursuing similar plans.

British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) were not available to comment.

By Jane Kettle

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie