UK government's £128-mn compensation to residents near planned nuclear site dubbed "social bribe" by campaigners

Towns and villages around a proposed new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, UK, could receive a £128-million windfall under new proposals unveiled by the UK government.

Campaigners opposing the project sought to dismiss the government largesse as a "social bribe" amounting to only around £3.3 million annually over 40 years while wind power developers complained they had to pay five times more in community benefits.

People living around eight potential nuclear sites in England and Wales could be eligible for a package of benefits worth up to £1,000 per MW of power with commissioning of the facility, according to the government.

According to Michael Mallon, the business and energy minister, new nuclear would play a central role in the UK's energy strategy, providing heat and light to homes across the country. He added, it was absolutely essential the contributions of those communities that hosted major new energy projects were recognised.

He added, the package was in the interests of local people, who would manage it to ensure long-term meaningful benefit to the community. He said it was proportionate to the scale and lifespan of new nuclear power stations and it built on the major economic benefits they would bring in terms of jobs, investment and use of local services.

However, according to Theo Simon, from Stop Hinkley Campaign, it looked like another case of trying to ease the way for the project which was in deep waters as the project, remains stalled, despite approvals as EDF Energy, which would own the plant, was still in talks with ministers over what it could charge for the amount of electricity it would generate at Hinkley Point C.

For about the first 10 years the government money would be made up of business rates retained locally, while cash over the second phase, from 2030-2060, would come directly from the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.

According to John Osman, leader of the county council, projects of the size and complexity had an impact on local areas, and it was only fair that they saw a sizeable sum to compensate them.