Top environmentalists say British taxpayer at risk from nuclear plans

Four senior environmentalists have warned that the UK government risks handing control of the country’s climate and energy policies to France.

EDFà‚ (Euronext:à‚ EDF) and reactor builder Areva (Euronext:à‚ CEI), big players in the UK’s nuclear plans, are largely French government-owned.

BBC columnist Richard Black reports that Jonathan Porritt, Tom Burke, Charles Secrett and Tony Juniper say the firms are landing UK citizens with all the financial risks of nuclear new build, and that Prime Minister David Cameron is being badly advised.

“There is now a growing risk of policy failure,” they write in a letter to the Mr Cameron.

“Our analysis shows that building new nukes will be a massive rip-off for the the British taxpayer,” said Mr Secrett.

“How on Earth can the prime minister justify paying billions of pounds of subsidy to French power companies when the chancellor is slashing welfare budgets for poor people in Britain and there are a million young people unemployed?”

Ministers have been well and truly led up the garden path by the nuclear lobby”

The four Friends of the Earth (FoE) ex-directors say with the government relying on EDF to commission and operate the new power stations and on Areva to build reactors, the French firms are in position to bargain hard and secure themselves a highly advantageous financial package – which will result in higher electricity prices for the UK consumer.

Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy signed a pact on nuclear co-operation only last month

And they say that as the French government has a large stake in both companies, it will be able to determine whether the UK nuclear build goes ahead.

“The French will only proceed if the large financial risks of new nuclear build are transferred from France to British households and business,” they tell Mr Cameron.

Even then, they say, “there is no reason to believe that Areva will be able to construct new reactors on time and to budget”.

The two Areva EPR reactors under construction in Europe, at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland, are both several years behind schedule and well over budget.

“The prime minister needs to step in and make sure that energy policy is truly working in the public interest, rather than to the agenda of a massive vested interest.”

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