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Nuclear Power Industry

Volume 76: debated on Wednesday 3 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what public funds, measured at constant prices, have gone into the United Kingdom fast breeder nuclear power programme in each of the past 10 years; and when he expects to receive an economic return on this investment.

Government expenditure on fast reactor research and development over the past 10 years has been (at 1984–85 prices):

Year£ million
1975–76*155·3
1976–77*145·9
1977–78152·4
1978–79166·0
1979–80134·7
1980–81132·4
1981–82125·7
1982–83116·1
1983–84125·6
†1984–85104·3
* In these years, expenditure on reactor safety was included within a separate aggregated category. It is estimated that some £9–13 million (1984–85 prices) per annum was spent on fast reactor safety in this period.
† Estimated.
In addition, the CEGB and BNFL have spent relatively small sums on fast reactor work, mainly within their own organisations.The Government's policy on the fast reactor research programme was set out in my right hon. Friend's replies of 29 November 1982 to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), at columns 2–3, and of 16 January 1984 to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), at columns 47–48.The time scale on which fast reactors will become economically competitive with thermal nuclear reactors depends on a number of factors. These include:

  • (i) the future cost of thermal nuclear generation (which depends in part on longer term trends in the price of uranium); and
  • (ii) the extent to which the European collaborative research and development programme leads to reductions in the capital and fuel cycle costs of the fast reactor.