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Nuclear Power

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 17 January 2008

7. What percentage of the UK’s present energy needs would be met by the construction of one medium-sized nuclear power station; and at what estimated cost. (179527)

A single medium-sized nuclear power station of 1.2 GW would provide around 2 per cent. of the UK’s electricity needs. This would be equivalent to about 0.8 per cent. of our total energy supplies. The White Paper on nuclear power published last week sets out why nuclear is the cheapest low-carbon option for electricity generation.

What the Minister’s response actually demonstrates is how deeply flawed the policy is. The reality is that nuclear power is hopelessly uneconomic and, even on the Minister’s own figures, one station will meet only 0.8 per cent. of our energy needs. Is not the reality that it would be much better to invest in energy efficiency and renewables, which would have a much better response in terms of energy policy, and is not what he proposes a white elephant and a red herring?

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, what my reply demonstrated was that I was answering his question. I invite him to read the nuclear White Paper before forming a judgment. Yes, energy efficiency is crucial to energy strategy for climate change and, yes, renewables play a vital part—and will play a bigger part in the future. That is our policy, but we need other energy supply, too. If one day, heaven forbid, the Liberal Democrats were in power, it would be a dark, cold and gloomy place, with their Members huddled around, burning Nick Clegg leadership manifestos to keep warm.

It is possible that zero-carbon nuclear energy might one day save the world from climate change; hot air from the Liberal Democrats certainly never will. After the proposals in the excellent energy White Paper are passed, nuclear power will have to internalise the cost of decommissioning power stations and waste, as it should. However, as I understand it, those rules will not apply to energy producers that produce energy using fossil fuels. Why not?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the entire costs for the management and disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel from any new nuclear power stations will have to be paid by the power companies. In terms of a wider strategy to reduce carbon emissions, we need to do many things. The EU emissions trading scheme is vital. Much will depend on a high price for carbon through the development of that scheme and we are pressing for that. Our Secretary of State has also announced a major demonstration project for carbon capture and storage, which surely also shows the way ahead.