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Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what matters he has discussed with British Nuclear Fuels plc since his recent announcement on the future for nuclear power.

I met Mr. Harding on 16 November when we discussed a range of matters concerning the company.

The answer that my right hon. Friend gave to an earlier question on the future of the nuclear industry will be warmly welcomed by my constituents who work at BNFL's plant at Springfields and who have striven hard to improve their productivity. Can he assure me that in future negotiations with the Nuclear Electric company over the price of nuclear fuel there will be no return to cost-plus negotiating and the consequent loss of the benefits of competitive tendering in this area?

Those are commercial matters for BNFL and the Nuclear Electric company, but I very much share my hon. Friend's view that cost-plus contracts are not the best way forward, and I hope that proper contracts will be negotiated. I have been particularly impressed by BNFL's progress. In 1988–89 Springfields increased its exports by 25 per cent. and contributed to BNFL's record exports of £169 million.

Has the Secretary of State discussed with BNFL or anyone else the fears of a growing number of nuclear engineers and scientists about the inherent dangers of a PWR pressure vessel collapse? Is he aware that an increasing number of our nuclear engineers are so worried about the risks involved that they believe that Sizewell B and the whole PWR programme should be abandoned?

That sounds like a partial account of the position. I have had no discussions with anyone on that subject. Safety is the paramount consideration at all times in the operation of nuclear power. That will continue to be so in the future, and we have an outstandingly good record.