The government has introduced tax-payer funded benefit packages for people living in the vicinity of future nuclear reactors.
Some £128m will be awarded to the area around Hinkley Point, Somerset, where the government hopes the first of a new generation nuclear power plants will be built by EDF.
In the first ten years of the plant’s operations, the local authorities should receive a share of increased business rates revenues believed to be generated. In the second phase, anticipated to take place between 2030 and 2060, the Department of Energy and Climate Change will pay directly to the communities hosting nuclear power plants.
Despite similar packages having been offered in the case of wind farms or shale-gas extraction, this is the first case when tax-payers (rather than the developer) will foot the bill.
"New nuclear will have a central role to play in our energy strategy, providing heat and light to homes across the country,” said Energy Minister Michael Fallon while introducing the plans.
"It is absolutely essential that we recognise the contributions of those communities that host major new energy projects.
Construction of the first of a planned new generation of nuclear reactors as part of Government efforts to cut carbon emissions from energy generation has stalled as EDF and officials have so far failed to agree a price for the electricity which will be generated from the Hinkley Point site.
"This package is in the interests of local people, who will manage it to ensure long-term meaningful benefit to the community,” Fallon said. "It is proportionate to the scale and lifespan of new nuclear power stations and it builds on the major economic benefits they will bring in terms of jobs, investment and use of local services."
However, the plans have encountered criticism. Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK said that UK’s energy policy is becoming seriously distorted as result of the decision. "Whilst wind farms and even shale gas developers have to pay community benefits, only nuclear stations will get a fat taxpayer subsidy to fund them,” Parr said.
"Our entire energy policy is now absurdly distorted by the desperation to prop up EDF's faltering Hinkley C project, with the Government piling the costs on to the taxpayer to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they backed the wrong technology,” he said.