A wave of new subsidies might soon give the United Kingdom’s troubled nuclear industry a lifeline, thanks to a public financing deal between the UK and Japanese governments and a possible second agreement with South Korea, EcoWatch reported last month.
Citing a report in the Financial Times, Greenpeace analyst Joe Sandler Clarke says “letters had been exchanged between Tokyo and London expressing support for the Wylfa project” in Anglesey, Wales, amounting to $20 billion in loans and an ownership stake for the UK government in Horizon Nuclear power, a consortium led by Hitachi. “There are also reports in Korean media that the [UK] Treasury is involved in project finance for the troubled Moorside nuclear plant—including another possible equity stake.”
“There’s been a shift on this because nuclear can’t happen without significant government financial support,” said Chatham House Senior Research Fellow Antony Froggatt. “What we’re seeing, and this has been the case for the last five to 10 years, is that the Conservatives have gradually been salami slicing away at their pledge to allow the construction of new nuclear, provided that they ‘receive no public subsidy’.”
EcoWatch points to a strong vote of support for the UK-Japan financing deal from Peter McIntosh, acting national officer for energy at the Unite union, “which has long pushed for public investment in new nuclear.” McIntosh told Clarke that “privatization of the energy sector has failed, and we would call upon the government to bring the sector back into public ownership.”
The UK recently “reaffirmed its commitment to building a fleet of new nuclear power stations in recent months, despite concerns over the cost and delivery,” Clarke notes. “But if it decides to back a nuclear project, it may prove difficult for ministers to avoid offering the same public support to other similar schemes.”
But those promises may yet prove empty. “The struggling nuclear industries of Japan, France, and Korea are all looking to the UK to rescue them,” said E3G Chair and Founding Director Tom Burke. “What they are getting from the government is warm words and long promises,” since “the truth is that there is no room for additional nuclear in Britain’s rapidly modernizing electricity supply system.”