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Friday, 19 December 2014

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MP under fire over cuts to nuclear-build industry

THE government’s energy minister has been forced to deny allegations his “prejudice” over nuclear power contributed to the cancellation of an £80m loan to build plant components.

The loan to Sheffield Forgemasters to support the civil nuclear supply chain was announced by the former Labour government before the election, but fell victim to the review of spending decisions taken since January.

Union leaders had warned that withdrawing the loan would lead to thousands of job losses and jeopardise Britain’s preparations to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Lib Dem energy minister Chris Huhne came under repeated fire from MPs in the Commons over his stance on nuclear power.

Labour leadership contender and shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said the coalition’s decision was based on the “short-sightedness” of a Tory party which was against state intervention and Mr Huhne’s opposition to nuclear.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne denied allegations his “prejudices” against nuclear energy contributed to the cancellation of the £80m loan. He insisted the loan was “simply unaffordable”.

Mr Huhne said: “I can assure you that my prejudices, whether they exist or not other than in your own imagination, did not enter into this decision.

“The reality is that it was simply unaffordable in the context of the fiscal legacy that you and your Right Honourable Friends left this House.”

Copeland MP Jamie Reed is continuing to demand answers from the government over its position on nuclear power amid fears investor confidence could be undermined.

Mr Huhne believes Britain is facing a £4bn black hole in unavoidable nuclear decommissioning and waste costs over the next four years.

He said in the current financial year the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s budget is expected to be in balance. But from 2011-12, the deficit suddenly rises to £850m, in 2012-13 the gap increases further to £950m and then to £1.1bn in the two subsequent years.

Mr Reed said: “The NDA accounts for over half of the Department for Energy and Climate Chance budget and is the most important employer in Copeland and the whole of Cumbria.

“Under Labour, the NDA and Sellafield in particular received record breaking budget settlements – £1.5bn last year. This budget must be maintained, not reduced and I’ll be seeking meetings over coming weeks to find out what the government intends to do.

“The NDA budget sustains local jobs – if the government attempts to decimate this budget it will inflict real and deliberate economic pain upon the people and families of west Cumbria. These cuts will also undermine further the confidence of investors in new nuclear generation in the UK.”

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