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Nuclear Power

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 8 March 2012

15. What discussions he has had with private contractors on the construction of the next generation of nuclear power stations. (98673)

My Department regularly meets companies from different parts of the supply chain to discuss the next generation of nuclear power stations and how they can contribute to meeting our energy security and carbon reduction goals.

The UK Government are committed to ensuring that UK companies are in a position to compete for the business opportunities that new nuclear can provide, both in the UK and globally.

My constituents will welcome the news that Ministers are working with the supply chain and nuclear reactor vendors to help create and support a globally competitive supply chain. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the majority of the UK’s new nuclear plants are constructed, manufactured and engineered by British companies? Will he pledge to include socio-economic factors in the invitations to tender, as so many other European countries do in theirs?

We are keen to learn to be more like the French and to understand how we can do that more effectively in these matters. We work closely with companies such as Areva and Westinghouse, which have assured us that they have a real commitment to developing supply chains here in the United Kingdom. We are working with local enterprise partnerships to ensure that the skills base is there. The partnership between Areva and Rolls-Royce is a fantastic example of how we can develop that in the United Kingdom and then those skills can be taken to the rest of the world.

This time last year there were 54 nuclear reactors operating in Japan. Today there are three. Does not the anniversary of the terrible accident there last year convince the Minister that nuclear is the most fragile, unreliable power source?

No single source of energy is capable of withstanding the force of a multiple earthquake and tsunami. Those were very exceptional circumstances. We asked our regulator, who is well respected, to look into this and see what lessons we could learn, and we came to a different conclusion. We understand why the Japanese Government came to the conclusion that they did, but we see nuclear as an important part of a low-carbon future. We are therefore keen to take this forward, but we will never compromise on safety standards.