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Nuclear Power

Volume 552: debated on Thursday 1 November 2012

1. What steps he is taking to ensure that nuclear power provides a significant proportion of the UK’s future electricity supply. (126037)

16. What steps he is taking to ensure that nuclear power provides a significant proportion of the UK's future electricity supply. (126056)

The Government remain committed to ensuring that conditions are right for investment in new nuclear power in the UK without public subsidy, and we have taken action to remove potential barriers. The carbon floor price and electricity market reform will provide the certainty needed for investment in low carbon generation, including nuclear. The Government are talking to NNB GenCo about the potential terms for Hinkley Point C, and earlier this week I welcomed the excellent news that Hitachi had acquired Horizon Nuclear Power.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. Like him, I was pleased to hear about Hitachi’s investment. If Britain is to reach its low carbon targets and retain energy security in the longer term, nuclear energy remains the only credible solution. In view of the consequent need for significant investment in order to achieve that, would the Government consider investing in, say, Westinghouse, or purchasing Centrica’s share in what was British Energy, thereby reversing the remarkably short-sighted decisions of the previous Administration?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. He is right to say that we need all forms of low carbon generation if we are to meet our demanding targets. I do not think that I am attracted by the idea of the state getting involved in the nationalised delivery of nuclear power. The conditions that we have set up mean that there will be a market-based approach.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his ministerial team on encouraging the substantial investment to secure Britain’s nuclear future that Hitachi has announced only this week. Will he say a little more about what the Government are going to do to ensure that we secure as many British jobs as possible from this substantial investment?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is not only good news and a huge vote of confidence for the UK’s energy policy; it is also good news for British industry. Hitachi has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Rolls-Royce and Babcock, and the supply chain potential is huge, with 6,000 jobs during construction at Wylfa and Oldbury, and 1,000 permanent jobs after construction. When I announced the Hitachi decision, I also announced that we had set up the Nuclear Industry Council to enable the Government to work with the industry to maximise the potential for the supply chain in this country.

As the Secretary of State said, the decision by Hitachi to purchase Horizon Nuclear Power is a vote of confidence in Anglesey, in north Wales and in UK plc, and I am proud to bat for all three. Will he give the House an assurance that, to make this project a reality, the Office for Nuclear Regulation will have adequate resources to assess the new technology, in order to ensure that we have safe nuclear generation as soon as is practical?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I pay tribute to him, to the Government of Wales and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales for the important role that they have all played in this deal. I can confirm that the Office for Nuclear Regulation will have all the resources it needs to go through the generic design assessment for the advanced boiling water reactors that Hitachi is proposing.

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the new nuclear build for the west coast of Cumbria seems to be tied to the storage of nuclear waste at the site? Given the recent earth tremors in west Cumbria, one of which reached nearly 4 on the Richter scale a year or so ago, does he not agree that that would be the worst geological site in the UK on which to store nuclear waste?

I have to say to my hon. Friend that that is certainly not what our scientists and analysts are saying. I know that there is a debate about the geological disposal facility in west Cumbria, but I am reassured that the local authorities are going about the decision on whether to host such a GDF in a sensible and authoritative way, and I am sure that they will support the proposal, which is an important step forward for new nuclear.