Why does Ukip back Brussels over new nuclear plants?
by David Lowry
OVERLOOKED in the political frenzy over the success of Ukip in the two by-election results is Nigel Farage’s curious backing for Brussels’s support for massive multibillion-pound subsidies for new nuclear power plants in Britain.
In fact the costs of this giant twin reactor project have continued to escalate as planning has gone ahead by the coalition government, with the full support of Labour’s leadership — if not its membership.
Back in 2006, the current Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey correctly wrote on his blog, when he was a mere opposition MP launching the Lib Dem energy policy, Say No to Nuclear: “A new generation of nuclear power stations will cost taxpayers and consumers tens of billions of pounds.”
The reference plant for the mega nuclear station at Hinkley Point C is the French-designed Olkiluoto plant in Finland, which started conacstruction in May 2005 — with an original promised completion date in 2009 — and for which the construction costs have doubled to at least €6.4 billion and completion delayed to 2016.
A similarly designed plant under construction at Flamanville in France is suffering a four-year delay with costs rising from €3.3bn to €8.5bn.
The initial costs for the twin British plant has risen from under £10bn when first proposed, then to £14bn, and increased to £16bn several months ago.
The new decision by the European Commision on October 8 to flout its own rules on state aid, reverse its initial opposition to the massive subsidies requested by the coalition government and allow a further taxpayer subsidies increase for Hinkley C to an eye-watering £34bn beggars belief.
When asked about the price increase by £18bn to £34bn, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters in Brussels that his service had worked with these numbers in its exchanges with British authorities for a year and he had “no explanation for the lower figures.”
Surely the House of Commons public accounts committee, chaired by Labour MP Margaret Hodge, will want to know why this spectacular price escalation — and future taxpayer obligation — has happened.
But bizarrely Labour’s shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex MP welcomed the commission’s decision, telling the Business Green website: “The commission’s decision emphasises the delivery of value for the consumer and serves as a reminder to the government that transparency and accountability are important principles.”
Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that the coalition agreement said in May 2010 that new nuclear power stations would be permitted only “provided that they receive no public subsidy.”
So much for honesty in politics.