Less than a third of UK public support Osborne’s nuclear power deal

The deal for a new power plant at Hinkley could be finalised this week


Tonight the Chinese President Xi Jinping will land in the UK for his first state visit, with David Cameron hailing this as a ‘golden era‘ in British-Chinese relations. Among the items on the agenda over the next four days will be Chinese investment into a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The £24.5bn power station project, the first new UK nuclear reactor in a generation, is expected to attract investment from China’s CGN and CNNC, which will take a minority stake in Hinkley Point C (to join Points A and B). French energy giant EDF will take the lead stake

To coincide with President Xi’s visit, Greenpeace have published the results of a poll they commissioned to research public opinion on the new power plant. The survey shows that less than a third of UK people back the new nuclear reactor.

Just 29 per cent of those surveyed (more than 2,000 adults) said they support plans for a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, against 34 per cent who said they oppose it.

Furthermore, nearly three times more respondents said Osborne’s backing for the project worsened their opinion of him as a potential political leader than those who said it would improve it.

Greenpeace say the findings will come as an embarrassment for the government as EDF and their Chinese partners use this week’s visit to push forward the plans.

Hinkley has faced deep criticism since it was first announced in October 2013. It has been described as the ‘most expensive object ever built in Britain’, ‘one of the worst deals ever’ for British consumers, and a ‘bottomless pit and a big white elephant’.

In a damning report published this summer, experts at banking giant HSBC wrote that they saw ‘ample reason for the UK government to delay or cancel the project’, pointing to major technical setbacks and sky-high costs.

Under the deal, the UK government has committed to paying Hinkley’s owners twice the current market price of electricity for the next 35 years. The gap will being plugged by consumer-funded subsidies.

Around the time of the HSBC report, Energy secretary Amber Rudd defended government plans to withdraw subsidies from green, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, saying (£) ‘I feel we can deliver on low-carbon electricity through less subsidy.’

Many campaigners pointed out that this was at odds with the plans for Hinkley.

Commenting on today’s publication, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said:

“No wonder the Hinkley project enjoys little public support. Consumers are hearing from ministers that keeping bills down is their top priority. Yet George Osborne is about to plough billions into the bottomless pit of ever more expensive nuclear power whilst pulling the plug on clean energy sources that are getting cheaper every year.

“He’s putting British clean tech firms out of business whilst lavishing billions on a foreign state-owned nuclear industry. None of this makes any economic, political, or business sense. There are no reasons left for going through with Hinkley but the chancellor’s own pride.”

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

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