Anger over nuclear money appeal

BBC News Channel, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A request from a council for cash from nuclear firms bidding to build a new power station in Hinkley, Somerset has angered protesters.

Campaigners claimed the move shows a "conflict of interest".

Sedgemoor District Council has written to EDF and British Energy asking for £750,000 to help pay for the planning work to consider the application.

The council said it only has "limited resources" and it has also asked for financial support from the government.

It comes after the government announced plans for a new generation of nuclear plants last year, which could include the Hinkley site.

Doug Bamsey, from Sedgemoor District Council, said: "These are multi-billion pound proposals with multi-million pound studies. Our resources are very limited.

"We don't see it as necessarily right that local tax payers should pay for this huge project.

"We wrote to the two companies - British Energy and EDF - to explore the possibility of resources from them.

"Since that time, we've also written to and worked with and met with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and asked them the same question because ideally we'd like resources from government."

'Element of secrecy'

David Taylor, from the Stop Hinkley Campaign Group, said: "I think it's quite extraordinary.

"The very idea that the local council should be appealing to a potential applicant for a contribution of this kind - and the way in which it was done - there seems to be a whole element of secrecy surrounding it and clearly there is a conflict of interest."

He suggested it was more "prudent" to request the money from the government.

"There's no reason why local tax payers should be asked to pay for this huge extra burden which the nuclear industry is going to cost us all," he said.

John Hutton, who was Business Secretary, told MPs at the time that any plants would be built at or near existing reactors by private firms and said he hoped the first one would be completed "well before 2020".

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Page Updated 22-Jan-2009