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Nuclear Power Stations

Volume 81: debated on Monday 24 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many additional nuclear power stations he expects to be commissioned between 1985 and 2000.

The ordering of nuclear power stations by the CEGB beyond those currently under construction cannot be considered until after the outcome of the Sizewell inquiry.

Is that all the Minister can say, when yesterday's newspapers reported that the CEGB had dusted off its plans to build another 12 nuclear power stations before the end of the century, including, of course, one at Druridge bay, Northumberland'? Is the Secretary of State planning to halve the country's dependence upon coal for energy purposes, and if so, why; or is he making the same exaggerated assumptions about energy demand as were fashionable when the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) was Secretary of State for Energy?

The number of stations will depend upon a range of factors, including the future level of electricity demand. The CEGB has stated that it does not intend to make applications for new power stations, nuclear or otherwise, before the outcome of the Sizewell inquiry is known. I understand that the CEGB has said that should it receive consent to construct Sizewell B, it would, subject to obtaining consent, wish to complete several PWRs before the end of the century. My right hon. Friend will consider any such applications on their merits at the time.

If more PWR stations are to be built, does my hon. Friend imagine that the inquiries that will have to be held before each of those reactors is built will be as long as the Sizewell inquiry, or will some abbreviated form of inquiry be possible?

The terms of reference for any future inquiry will be set in the light of circumstances prevailing at the time.

What is the Government's view about a safe or acceptable level of radiation exposure for the public, and how will that level be affected by the type of building programme for nuclear power stations that the Minister has discussed?

The Government attach the highest possible importance to nuclear safety, and any planning applications will be subject to the necessary consents.

Is my hon. Friend aware that electricity is considerably cheaper in France, which is substantially dependent on nuclear energy? Does he therefore agree that anyone interested in cheaper energy prices for pensioners and other low-income groups should welcome an expansion of Great Britain's nuclear energy programme?