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Councils condemn £20m nuclear compensation package

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Three Somerset councils have accused EDF Energy of penny-pinching over compensation for building a nuclear power station.

The company has offered a community benefits package totalling £20m, but the councils say this is derisory compared with what is paid by nuclear operators elsewhere in Europe.

In a joint statement, Somerset CC, Sedgemoor DC and West Somerset DC said they wanted to “make sure Somerset residents don’t get short-changed” if the proposed Hinkley Point C power station is built.

The application is with the Infrastructure Planning Commission. It would take around nine years to build, be operational for at least 60 years and possibly require radioactive waste storage for a further 100 years.

They said EDF Energy’s £20m offer would thus equate to less than £120,000 per year.

“This is a fraction of what nuclear operators would be required to pay elsewhere in Europe or indeed what companies in other energy sectors, such as renewables, pay in the UK,” the councils said.

Sedgemoor chief executive Kerry Rickards said: “While £20m may seem like a lot of money, it simply isn’t when you think about it across the long life span of this project.

“Future generations of Somerset residents will not thank us if we do not secure the appropriate level of benefit from something that will have an impact on the area until at least 2111.”

Somerset leader Ken Maddock (Con) said EDF had agreed to look at the case for increasing the benefits package.

West Somerset chief executive Adrian Dyer has said the benefits package should be additional to normal planning gain because of the impact on the area.

Research by the councils found examples of community benefits totalling £9m a year when nuclear power stations were built in France and Italy, and £11m in Spain.

They pointed out that UK Wind Farms pay £4-5,000 per megawatt of installed capacity per year in such compensation, and that the Drigg nuclear waste storage facility in Cumbria paid an initial £10m contribution plus £1.5m per year of operation.

EDF Energy said it would invest £100m in the area, comprising £80m for infrastructure “which could be of lasting benefit” and the £20m community fund.

It said; “A recent poll found that the majority of people in Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane and West Somerset think that the £100m of investment proposed by EDF Energy will have a positive impact on the area”, and that 54% thought the community fund was the right size.

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