Hinkley Point C deal over radioactive waste sparks furious row
row has broken out after the Department of Energy and Climate
Change (DECC) refused to disclose the arrangement with EDF for
dealing with radioactive waste at the planned Hinkley Point C
nuclear plant near Burnham-On-Sea.
Information Commissioners office has turned down a Freedom
Of Information (FoI) request for state aid arrangements between
the UK and the European commission to be made public.
FoI complainant, David Lowry, has launched an appeal, claiming
it is in the public interest for British citizens to be able to
judge whether their government has made the right decision about
the new reactors.
a British-based senior research fellow with the Institute for
Resource and Security Studies in the US, told The Guardian
newspaper: "I do not believe the balance of judgment
should be in favour of a foreign company, EDF Energy, who will
potentially make huge multi-billion-pound financial gain from
the continued non-disclosure, and hence non scrutiny, over myself
as a British tax and electricity bill payer."
The government said that anyone building new reactors in Britain
must manage and pay for the cost of handling waste products, unlike
the existing situation where all radioactive materials are effectively
dealt with through the public purse via the Nuclear Decommissioning
although the operator must agree to take responsibility for the
spent fuel and other radioactive waste, the cost is expected to
be passed on to the domestic electricity user through higher bills.
the new arrangements, the prospective nuclear operators must enter
into a waste transfer contract (WTC). Those contracts, like the
one covering Hinkley, must be submitted for scrutiny by the EC
under its state aid rules. It is the pricing methodology of the
WTC that Lowry wished to review and which remains under wraps.
turned down the original request under regulation 12(5)(a) of
the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 arguing that "disclosure
would adversely affect international relations, defence, national
security or public safety."
argument was accepted by the Information Commissioner who believed
that disclosure of the state aid discussions with the EC "would
adversely affect the relationship between the (UK) government
and the commissions ability to work effectively together."
commissioner acknowledged that there were "strong public
interest arguments in favour of disclosure" but he believed
there was a stronger argument for protecting the confidentiality
of the material.
says he believes the real reason the government did not want to
disclose the information was to save ministers from embarrassment.
"I think the concern is if the truth were to come out with
documents being made public would adversely affect the credibility
of the government submissions as their threadbare content would
be laid bare for all to see," he said.
declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the Information