December 7, 2010 / 1:14 PM / in 7 years

UK lays out new nuclear clean up proposals

* Operators to fund decommissioning, not taxpayers

* UK faces big shortfall covering nuclear decommissioning

LONDON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - New nuclear operators in Britain will have to put money aside for the eventual decommissioning of plants to make sure taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill, the government said on Tuesday.

The new rules will also require operators to secure enough funds in place before building new power stations.

“It’s vital that we give new nuclear operators as much clarity about long term costs as possible,” Energy Minister Charles Hendry said.

“At the same time, though, we have to make sure that there is no hidden subsidy and that the taxpayer is protected from costs that are rightly the responsibility of the operator.”

In June, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne warned that Britain faced a 4-billion pound ($6.32 billion) shortfall in covering the costs of nuclear decommissioning and dealing with waste over the next few years.

The additional costs derive from slowly rising expenditure on nuclear decommissioning and falling income due to the closure of ageing power plants, he said.

The government also published on Tuesday the consultation on Waste Transfer Pricing Methodology to ensure the safe disposal of radioactive waste from new nuclear power stations without cost to the taxpayer.

It included a proposed cap on the waste transfer price -- set at three times the current cost estimates -- to give operators cost certainty.

Nuclear energy is one of the fault lines in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government with the junior Lib Dems opposing any construction of new nuclear plants. (Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; editing by James Jukwey)

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