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Nuclear Power Stations (Generation Costs)

Volume 654: debated on Monday 19 February 1962

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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?