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Ministry Of Power

Volume 654: debated on Monday 19 February 1962

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Nuclear Power Stations (Generation Costs)

25.

asked the Minister of Power how his latest estimate for the cost of electricity generation by nuclear power stations compares with the present cost of generation by conventional power stations.

The estimate for base load generation from Bradwell and Berkeley, which come into service in the next few months, is 1d. a unit. This compares with a unit cost of ·55d.—·7d. from coalfired stations coming into service this year, depending on their size and distance from the coalfields. The present estimate for Sizewell, due to come into service in 1965–66, is ·65d. compared with ·5d. to ·65d. for coalfired stations commissioned at the same time.

Are not these figures rather disappointing, in view of the amount of capital expenditure and the amount of scientific effort involved? Could my right hon. Friend say how there has been this over-optimism about the position which appears to be disclosed by the figures he has given?

The postponement of the date by which nuclear generation is likely to break even with coal-fired generation depends on quite a number of factors, one of which is the rate of interest. In fact, I do not think that the figures are disappointing, because the capital cost per kilowatt at Bradwell and Berkeley, which come into operation this year, is £165, and the cost per kilowatt at Sizewell, which will come into operation in three or four years' time, will be down to £100. It is quite impossible, obviously, to decrease the cost further until there is a regular programme of nuclear building.

Is it not the case that, far from progress being disappointing, the programme is ahead of the target for breaking even in 1975? Furthermore, is it not due to the Government's policy, because of the easier availability of alternative fuels, that the programme has been deliberately slowed down?

The expectation now is that the break-even point probably will be reached in about 1970. Certainly, it is our plan to press ahead with this work and to try to get more experience of building these stations.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, as his reply shows, the gaining of experience from the nuclear power station at Sizewell will make an important contribution?

Does the Minister agree that a few years ago Sir John Cockroft said that parity would be reached in about 1965?

Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill

26.

asked the Minister of Power what technical report was submitted to him by the Gas Council in support of their application for his consent to promote the Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill; what was the title of the copy so submitted; and what date appeared upon the said copy submitted to him.

The Gas Council sent me the technical report of its American consultants, Ball Associates of Denver dated October, 1961, and entitled The Chilcomb Underground Gas Storage Project.

At the time that he considered the matter, was not my right hon. Friend shown the original report of the American consultants dated April, 1961?

The original report refers to another underground storage site which the Gas Council has made no proposal to use and which, I understand, it does not contemplate using.

Is the Minister aware that the Bill raises such profound new issues that it is his duty, not only to the citizens of Winchester, but to all who use the water undertakings of Hampshire, to have such proposals examined by an impartial committee before they come to this House?

Does not my right hon. Friend interpret it as his duty to ensure that there are no alternative sites and, in any event, to safeguard a unique and historic town and district? Is he aware that this proposal will meet with the most bitter and determined opposition from all parts of the House?

Those matters are rather wide of the Question I was asked. In any event, they are matters Which the House will no doubt discuss on the Second Reading of the Bill.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the April report referred at great length to the proposals to store gas at Chilcomb and that, apparently, the supplementary answer which he has given is inaccurate?

No, Sir. The earlier report referred to storage to the west of Winchester. I do not think that it is at all unreasonable that the Second Report did not mention that area, since the Gas Council had decided against developing it.

28.

asked the Minister of Power whether an assurance was given him by the Gas Council that consultations had taken place with the Winchester City Council and with other bodies or persons directly affected when application was made to him by the Gas Council for his consent to promote the Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that, as a Minister of the Crown, when giving his consent to a Bill of this sort, he has an obligation to inquire whether those vitally affected by the principle of the Bill have been consulted?

No, Sir. I conceive my duty to be to give consent under the Gas Act, having had regard to two factors. One is the general objectives of the Bill and the second is to what extent it is necessary for the objectives to be examined by Parliament. I came to the conclusion that there was an economic case for the Bill and that it would be a good idea if Parliament looked at it. Therefore, I gave my consent.

Is the Minister aware that he is not only Minister of Power but part of the Government, and that part of their job is to ensure that when a revolutionary proposal of this nature is made adequate consultation has taken place not only with the City of Winchester, but with the planning authorities of Hampshire and with all the water undertakings affected?

The Bill was published at the end of November. We have not yet had Second Reading and the Committee stage is even further away. There has been quite a lot of time for discussion between November and Second Reading.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this proposal is of interest not only to the County of Hampshire and that it involves fundamental departures from earlier governmental policy in regard to fuel and power technology, civic matters, water supply and, most important of all, the undermining of the historic City of Winchester and its Cathedral? In view of all these important factors, will my right hon. Friend tell the House why he has evaded his Ministerial responsibility by allowing a nationalised industry to bring in a Bill of this sort? Why did not he himself take the responsibility and bring the Bill to this House so that we could all have opposed it in proper fashion?

As the replies to both my Questions are thoroughly unsatisfactory and the first of them is inaccurate, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at an early opportunity.