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Electricity Generation (Costs)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 23 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with the estimates of the cost of nuclear power station decommissioning used as part of the relative cost comparison between nuclear, coal, oil, and hydroelectric power generation; and which form of nuclear waste disposal has been assumed to operate in calculating decommissioning costs.

I consider that the general provision that the CEGB makes in its accounts for decommissioning nuclear power stations in operation at present are an acceptable basis for comparisons of generating costs. The precise method of decommissioning has not yet been decided. The provision covers the main options available.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that the calculations for the cost of nuclear waste disposal do not taken into account any expenditure beyond the year 2000? When will the Minister come to the House and make a clear statement about the total cost of decommissioning and waste disposal, especially when we know that one harvest canister alone will cost £103 million, and that the total cost of storing nuclear waste in tanks up to the year 2000 will be £377 million?

Figures are thrown out in the House that have no basis in fact. The facts relating to the fuel cycle costs and the decommissioning costs associated with nuclear power are both adequately provided for within the CEGB estimates on the basis of known knowledge of expected costs.

Does my hon. Friend consider that it would be helpful to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race) if he spoke to Mr. Gavin Laird?

I can suggest many other honourable leaders of trade unions who equally could inform the hon. Gentleman on the, subject.

Since the cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations has always been a controversial matter, and since the Select Committee on Energy has published a report, does the Minister agree that it is time that the House had an opportunity to debate it?

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's last point, that is not a matter for me, but I shall draw it to the attention of the relevant parts of the House. When the Select Committee looked at decommissioning it did not question that aspect of the CEGB's accounts, as opposed to the fuel cycle costs. We are, after all, talking about a factor in decommissioning that is only 2 per cent. of the generating costs of a new nuclear power station.