Big business lines its pockets from nuclear power

Big business lines its pockets from nuclear power bonanza

Pete Mason

You want generous, guaranteed energy prices, fixed for 35 years? No problem if you own a French or Chinese multinational company. Bad luck if you’re an ordinary consumer.

Prime Minister David Cameron has ‘kick-started’ the nuclear industry with a big boost for the profits of French company EDF and two Chinese corporations who will build a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Meanwhile the situation in Fukushima, where Japanese nuclear power stations were destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami over two years ago, seems to worsen.

Guaranteed profits

This government condemned Labour leader Ed Miliband for threatening to freeze consumers’ sky-high energy prices for just 20 months. The energy companies reacted by holding the country to ransom, threatening blackouts and the loss of thousands of jobs in the energy industry, and then announced price rises of around 10% just weeks later.

Yet the government has negotiated 35 years of guaranteed profits to big business, promising the energy companies they can sell the electricity they produce at Hinkley at double the current wholesale market rate – the rate at which power generators sell their power to the energy suppliers.

This huge subsidy will come out of our pockets through higher energy bills once the plant is running.

Massive subsidies have always been handed to the nuclear industry to cover the exorbitant costs of nuclear power, the extreme danger posed by nuclear reactors, and the unsolved problem of decommissioning nuclear waste – successive government’s covert goal was always to facilitate nuclear weapons production.

Nuclear energy is promoted as a low carbon alternative yet the dangers of Fukushima and nuclear waste show this is no alternative.

After the opulent profits and rich dividends have been extracted by owners and ‘investors’ all along the production chain, the fat-cat energy suppliers retail the electricity to us, the consumer, and we pick up the final bill.

Centrica, the corporate name of the former British Gas Corporation privatised by Margaret Thatcher in 1986, greedily demanded a higher subsidy than the Chinese and French corporations, so they lost out.

The Hinkley Point winners EDF and the Chinese corporations are state owned. All are run like voracious capitalist companies, but state-subsidised in order to grab a bigger slice of the world market.

If the last Labour government under the then energy minister Ed Miliband had renationalised the energy industry, the government would have had complete control over the situation from the start. But the Labour leadership rejects re-nationalisation.

National plan

A state-owned energy industry could immediately plan to convert the country to solar, wind and tidal power supplies.

A national plan could be drawn up, a scaled-up version of the ten-year plan implemented by the then nationalised British Gas in 1967-77, when a huge army of engineers efficiently converted 40 million appliances and 13 million gas customers from dirty coal gas to North Sea gas.

Energy minister Ed Davey warns that gas prices can only go up, so we’d better be glad we’re paying extra for nuclear, or else ‘we’ll all be in trouble’. This contradicts all the recent government lies about fracking bringing endless cheap energy, lies which were also followed by generous tax subsidies offered to fracking companies!

The cost of energy from coal, oil, gas and nuclear is not only to be calculated in the inflated subsidies and the huge bills we receive, but in the incalculable cost to the environment in which we live and suffer the consequences.

By any long-term measure, carbon-free green energy is far cheaper. It is short-term profit and insatiable competition between capitalist nations which prevents the harvesting of the free resources of the sun, wind and tides and instead chains us to escalating energy bills, soot, smoke and the ever-present danger of nuclear radiation.