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Nuclear Power Stations

Volume 552: debated on Thursday 1 November 2012

What a pleasure it is to answer energy questions for the first time, and to do so with the wind in my sails!

New nuclear power will have a vital role to play in our energy mix, alongside other low-carbon forms of generation. It must be delivered to provide value for money for consumers, and funded through the investment that will spring from our exciting market reforms.

May I seek absolute clarity? Given that the Liberal Democrats oppose a new generation of nuclear power stations, and given that the coalition deal was done only on the basis that there would be no public subsidy for any nuclear power, may I have an express assurance that the construction and operation of every nuclear power station in the future will receive no Government subsidy at all? Can that be made absolutely clear, so that Hitachi understands it and everyone else understands it too?

Let me be crystal clear, because the right hon. Gentleman is right to inquire about this. There will be no levy, no direct payment and no market support for electricity supplied or capacity provided by a private sector new nuclear operator unless similar support is provided more widely for other types of generation. I could not be clearer than that.

With respect, the Minister could be a lot clearer than that. A subsidy is still a subsidy even if it is given to other types of generation as well as nuclear.

According to recently published estimates, just the 16 GW of new nuclear capacity to be built by 2025 will require between £5.5 billion and £12.6 billion a year in finance. That is a huge cost to householders and businesses. Does the Minister agree with those figures, and will he admit that given the constraints of the levy cap, he faces a choice between breaching the renewables directive, breaching the Climate Change Act 2008 and abandoning his increasingly implausible plans for new nuclear build?

Nuclear power is a low-emission technology, and the hon. Lady should welcome it accordingly. She obviously regarded this week’s good news as bad news, but it is good news in terms of the supply chain—as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said—it is good news for the British people, and it is good news for our energy mix and our energy security. I will not be influenced by the preoccupations of bourgeois-left academics; I will be inspired by the will of the people.