Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blair's 150 pounds-a-year nuclear power tax | the Daily Mail

Blair's ?150-a-year nuclear power tax | the Daily Mail

Families will have to pay a 'nuclear tax' for decades to help fund up to 20 new atomic power stations, it has been warned.
Britain's 25million households could face a �150-a-year levy on their electricity bills.

Tony Blair signalled yesterday that he is pushing ahead with the plans, despite doubts in his own Cabinet and the protests of a large number of Labour MPs.

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More polls � Opposition MPs predicted families could have to pay �3,000 over 20 years - or �150 a year - to fund the project.

Building power stations - and dealing with the radioactive waste they produce - will be massively expensive and the Treasury will not want to pick up the bill. The Prime Minister's scientific adviser Sir David King - who has urged him to press ahead with nuclear energy - is said to have proposed a levy on consumers.

According to reports at the weekend, the charge would encourage private nuclear operators to build plants by giving them a premium on every unit of electricity generated.

Mr Blair was given a glimpse of the protests which lie ahead yesterday as he launched a major review of Britain's energy supplies.

As he confirmed the review would look specifically at the prospect of bringing in a new generation of nuclear power stations, the Prime Minister's speech to about 1,000 business leaders in Islington, North London, was disrupted by environmental campaigners.

Mr Blair said energy policy was "back on the agenda with a vengeance".

"Energy prices have risen. Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency," he told the Confederation of British Industry.

Blair has made up his mind

The Prime Minister warned that by around 2020, the UK is likely to have seen decommissioning of coal and nuclear plants that together generate over 30 per cent of today's electricity.

Though Downing Street insists Mr Blair will wait for the review, most in Westminster have little doubt that he has made up his mind that nuclear power is the best route to securing energy supplies and meeting targets for reducing carbon emissions.

Critics pointed out that a major Government review only two years ago concluded that the focus should be on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

They said there would be no point in another inquiry unless Mr Blair was determined to get a different answer. Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, warned the move could lead to a household levy.

He said: "Gordon Brown won't pay so it is likely we will have a nuclear tax."

According to the Lib Dems, the �150-a-year bill over two decades will come in if households are forced to pay the whole amount.

This would be made up by the cost of nuclear clean-up, at �56billion - or �2,240 per household - and the likely cost of ten new nuclear power stations, at �15billion - or �600 per household. Ministers admitted yesterday that the cost of going nuclear would be huge - and suggested the taxpayer might have to pay some of the bill.

Public subsidies needed

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said: "What is clear is that Her Majesty's Treasury is not going to write cheques."

The Prime Minister's pledge again put him at odds with many of his MPs. Forty-one have already signed a Commons motion warning that a major nuclear power project would require "massive public subsidies".

Many feel the money could be better spent on renewable energy sources.

But Ministers are under pressure because North Sea gas is running out and they need to cut back carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050.

To generate electricity without burning fossil fuels, the alternatives are nuclear and renewable energy sources. Mr Wicks insisted nothing had been ruled in or out. "This is a wide-ranging energy review. It is not a nuclear review. There is no foregone conclusion.

"We will examine the evidence and the wide range of options. It is certainly not a case of nuclear versus, say, renewables."

But environmental groups fear a decision has already been made.

Director Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "We are deeply worried that the Prime Minister has fallen for the nuclear spin, and has already made up his mind.

"Nuclear power is dangerous, expensive and unnecessary. It is time to abandon this white elephant and embrace sensible and sustainable energy solutions for the 21st century."

Tory trade and industry spokesman David Willetts said Labour had stalled on making crucial energy decisions.

He said: "It has taken a gas supply crisis and rocketing fuel bills to force the Government finally to act."


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