French energy giant, EDF, owner of London Electricity, is setting stringent conditions before it agrees to a multi-billion pound investment in new British nuclear reactors says Sunday's Observer here
The demands throw into question the viability of a new nuclear programme that could cost £15bn and shine the spotlight on the willingness of private sector investors to become involved in such a high-risk enterprise without government support.
They come as Whitehall sources indicate serious disquiet in the Treasury over the possibility that costs will escalate and that nuclear generation will remain vulnerable to the volatile electricity prices that led to the collapse of British Energy in 2002, leaving taxpayers exposed.
Did I miss something? Didn't British Energy spend a long time saying it could never afford to build any new plants without a government subsidy? But that was before it went bankrupt trying to compete in the electricity market, and had to be bailed out with another subsidy.
So EdF would like:
· A streamlined planning system allowing approval for new plants within two years - avoiding the six-year marathon that engulfed the Sizewell B reactor in the 1980s
· Nuclear power to be counted as a non-carbon-emitting form of generation in the European Emissions Trading Scheme
· Political consensus for nuclear power.
In short, they would like the conditions they have in France, where there is not much else to compete with nuclear energy, and not much competition anyway. European Commission DG TREN where are you?
Of course their hands are tied by the contradictions between the Treaty of Rome which generally prevents state subsidies for one fuel over another and the Euratom Treaty which still allows special conditions for nuclear power "to ensure that the EU has a thriving nuclear industry". And why does it need that these days?