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Nuclear Waste

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

12. What progress his Department has made on the proposal of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management for deep geological disposal of nuclear waste; and if he will make a statement. (308900)

The Government accepted in 2006 the recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management on geological disposal, coupled with safe and secure interim storage. Following public consultation, the Government published the White Paper, “Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal” in June 2008. The first step is an expression of interest from a community that may be interested in hosting a geological disposal facility. To date, we have received three expressions of interest relating to the Copeland and Allerdale districts in Cumbria. Officials are in discussion with these authorities, but it remains open for other local authorities to express an interest.

I thank my hon. Friend for his extensive answer. The Secretary of State said in an evidence session in the late summer that by late autumn we would have a statement on how to deal with nuclear waste and how to store it geologically. May we have this statement as soon as possible and why has there been a delay?

My hon. Friend has great knowledge of, and speaks with great authority on, this subject, so I take to heart his request that we hurry up and make the statement he seeks. I cannot answer him today regarding the reason for the delay, but I can assure him that the work I described in my answer to him will go on, and that we are looking forward to the construction and operation of a facility that will be a multi-million pound project, providing skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades.

Does the Minister accept that even those of us who are sceptical about the more exaggerated theories of global warming want to see rapid moves towards greater diversity of supply, less reliance on imported hydrocarbons and therefore the rapid development of nuclear energy? Is it not a disgrace that it has taken so long to get to any kind of resolution to this problem of the disposal of nuclear waste?

No, this is the first Government who have got a grip on the decision about the long-term future disposal of nuclear waste. It is good, however, that there is common ground between us on the security of energy supply and its coming from diverse sources; on that we can agree. There has certainly not been any delay in planning or policy for new nuclear, as we have seen three consortiums coming forward with plans for about 16 GW of new power from nuclear.