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New Nuclear Power

Volume 706: debated on Tuesday 11 January 2022

Let me pay tribute to those who worked at Hunterston nuclear power station in Scotland, which closed a few days ago. The operators have reported that since the station came online in 1976 it has produced enough zero-carbon electricity to power every home in Scotland for nearly 31 years.

Looking ahead, the Government have announced a £120 million future nuclear enabling fund to support new nuclear and we are aiming for a final investment decision on at least one more large-scale nuclear project during this Parliament, subject to value for money and relevant approvals.

What a shame that the Scottish National party is not pressing for a replacement of that old girl, who has given fantastic service over the years. Will the Minister reassure me that he sees nuclear as a way of not only replacing electricity capacity but producing the hydrogen we will need to power the heavy vehicles—the buses and trucks—of the future?

I thank my right hon. Friend for that further question, and I totally agree with him on where the SNP is. On energy in general, SNP Members are not the friends of Scotland on nuclear or the North sea. He is also absolutely right on hydrogen. On the Government Benches we recognise that net zero needs nuclear for security of supply, to meet our decarbonisation targets and to support new industries such as hydrogen.

When it comes to new nuclear, there is not a single successful EPR plan operational anywhere in the world. The regulated asset base—RAB—model has not been shown to work for new nuclear, so why does the Minister think that it is a good investment of £63 billion of bill payers’ money to sign up for Sizewell C when it is just going to be another white elephant?

I repeat my disappointment. Scotland has an amazing nuclear past and I would like it to have a very good nuclear future, but unfortunately the Scottish Government stand in the way. This country needs nuclear, and net zero needs nuclear. Hinkley is being built, and we are very confident of the numbers and of building new nuclear power stations in this country. That is what the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill—which secured its Third Reading yesterday with the support of the official Opposition but not of the SNP or the Lib Dems—is all about.

My constituency is home to Wylfa Newydd, the best potential nuclear site in the UK. Will the Minister accept my invitation to visit Wylfa Newydd to see at first hand why the Prime Minister himself is a fervent supporter?

I absolutely accept that invitation. There is no more passionate an advocate of new nuclear in this House than my hon. Friend. Nuclear is going to be a vital part of our future. The UN Economic Commission for Europe recently said that international climate objectives would not be met if nuclear power were excluded, so it is a key part of our net-zero ambitions.

I was disappointed that, in his reply, the Minister did not refer to small modular nuclear reactors, which surely are the future in this sector. Can we take the lesson from the vaccine taskforce that rigorous scientific methods can be combined with speeding up the process and cutting out dead time? Can he convey that message to the regulators so that this world-beating technology can be built in Britain to the benefit of British industry and British workers?

I absolutely share the right hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for SMRs. At the end of last year, the Secretary of State announced funding for SMRs of £250 million, working with Rolls-Royce and with the best of British industry and innovation on SMRs. I recently had a meeting with Sheffield MPs as well, where we talked about Sheffield’s potential to host SMRs, along with other sites. SMRs are very much part of our nuclear future.

Is the Minister aware that my constituency is on the frontline of the SNP Scottish Government’s dogmatic opposition to new nuclear power stations? For over 50 years, the Chapelcross power station near Annan provided much-needed jobs and a huge boost to the local economy, yet despite public support we cannot have Chapelcross 2 because the SNP is blocking it.

My right hon. Friend has been a passionate defender of Scotland’s interests since he and I were first elected in 2005, and he is absolutely right. The SNP has a nonsensical policy towards energy in Scotland in general, and towards nuclear in particular. There is a great civil nuclear heritage in Scotland which the SNP has betrayed. I wholly agree with my right hon. Friend.