Chris Huhne has announced that, in the event of a nuclear accident, operators will have to pay the first £1.2 billion of clean-up costs, seven times the current level of £140 million.
The Energy Secretary said that he wanted to introduce the new rule to ensure that there would be no public subsidy for nuclear power. 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.
According to the 2009-10 annual report from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the clean-up of nuclear legacy waste at the Sellafield is running behind schedule. Professor Andy Blowers believes that the eight new nuclear power stations being proposed for the UK should not be built unless the real scale and impact of the waste and how it is to be dealt with is made clear to the public, and progress is made on dealing with legacy waste.
Professor Gordon Mackerron, director of the science and technology policy research unit at the University of Sussex and who chaired the original Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, agrees that the consequences of creating more nuclear waste have not been properly addressed and debated.
Guardian Blog 27.1