But Chris Huhne insisted yesterday that this was not the case.
“There is no subsidy, there is a contract for difference to support low-carbon generation; nuclear is getting no special treatment,” the energy secretary told the House of Commons.
Except that surely it is – at least when compared to gas and oil power plants. Renewables and nuclear look likely to benefit from new feed-in tariffs and from a carbon price floor, both announced in yesterday’s consultation.
The issue has put some Lib Dems in a spin, unsure whether to believe their cabinet colleague or not over an issue which has traditionally been very contentious for the third party. You may remember that the coalition agreement stipulated that Lib Dem MPs are allowed to vote against new nuclear power stations – and that the government will not subsidise the industry.
Last night I spoke to Andrew George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, who said: “It is an issue that will exercise a lot of us, there is a broad concern.” Andrew Stunell, a junior minister, is among those who have spoken out strongly against nuclear power in the past.
Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham, told the Commons yesterday that he was concerned about nuclear’s “inflexibility and intermittency and the toxic legacy”. Should Mr Huhne not explore a levy on nuclear to balance any “hidden even if unspecific windfall subsidy” which might come about?
Mr Huhne’s reply was clear: “My hon. Friend knows very well that our policy is no subsidy to nuclear.”
Will these Derren Brown-style mind tricks convince the LIb Dem backbenches? We will soon find out.