Saturday 18 December 2010

Subsidising the nuclear industry

The week since the worst moment of the fees vote has seen a whole tranche of recognisably Lib Dem ideas announced by the coalition, not the least of which was the Localism Bill and the ambitious re-organisation of the electricity market to boost renewable energy.

I'm not sure I'm getting used to the roller-coaster of emotions which being in government brings.  Perhaps I was too idealistic; perhaps I was naive.  On the other hand, there is a great deal which remains exciting and which I'm hugely proud to be part of.

I don't want to be part of a party that demands feeding all the time, a chirupping beak that is never quite full.

But I must admit that I am getting sleepless nights about energy policy (I never thought I would see the day that I could write that sentence!).

Because, as well as the vital aspects of the energy re-organisation, there are things that are so unwelcome - and such anathema to me as a Liberal - that I find it hard to stomach.  I don't want as a tax-payer to be subsidising an energy form I regard as corrosive, dangerous to our security and irresponsible in the way it hands over its pollution for my children's children's children to deal with.  I am absolutely determined that we should not subsidise nuclear energy.

I know we are all different.  We all have our pet issues.  It just so happens that this one is mine.  I joined the Liberal Party in 1979 because we opposed nuclear energy, and because we voted against the Sellafield reprocessing plant (and weren't we right - it's been a staggering expensive and polluting white elephant ever since).

I believed Chris Huhne when he made his 'watch my lips' promise. 

I know the pressure he must have been under.  I believe in his integrity and determination, but nonetheless, we are now sponsoring a new generation of nuclear white elephants.

1.  The new tariff system will give nuclear a guaranteed price over and above what the market would manage.

2.  The government provides the insurance for the nuclear industry, because the consequences of an accident are so vast that no insurer would do it in the market.

3.  The government will subsidise the clean-up, reprocessing and storage, for centuries, of the waste - a huge burden on our descendents.

I would be so delighted to be told that I am wrong.  Nonetheless, I believe this is what is happening.  DECC would no doubt explain that, given that nuclear is included in the government's policy, these subsidies are necessary.  That is true - but that isn't what we promised.

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