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Nuclear Power

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 22 February 2022

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

Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing facility employs hundreds of people on the Fylde coast. I thank the Minister for recently visiting the facility and for his personal interest in protecting the operations there. Will he commit to continuing to work with colleagues to explore the opportunities for developing operations at the site and protecting the hundreds of jobs that it sustains?

My hon. Friend is a passionate supporter of local jobs in Blackpool. He is right: in December, I visited Springfields, which is just outside his constituency. It reminded me of the strategic national importance of our fuel industry, which is why we secured £75 million in the spending review to preserve and develop the UK’s nuclear fuel production capability. That funding will support the UK supply chain to power the reactors of today and advanced nuclear in the future.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Fracking has proven itself wholly unsuitable for the Fylde coast, with seismic events in Fylde twice forcing national moratoriums. Will my right hon. Friend assure my constituents and me that he agrees that to deal with the energy crisis, we need to look to technologies of the future such as next- generation nuclear, powered by Fylde-manufactured nuclear fuel?

My hon. Friend is the MP for Springfields, as you rightly point out, Mr Speaker, and is a passionate backer of our nuclear industry. New nuclear is crucial to our plans for a low-cost, low-carbon resilient electricity system. On fracking, the Government’s position is unchanged: fracking will not be allowed to proceed in England unless compelling new evidence is provided that addresses concerns about the prediction and management of induced seismicity.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has rejected proposals aimed at increasing transparency and accountability. There is wide disparity from plant to plant in engagement with local communities on concerns about safety issues such as breakdowns. What does the Minister make of the NDA’s rejection of increased transparency? What steps is his Department taking to reassure communities?

I am not aware of any rejection by the NDA of increased transparency. I am happy to look at what the hon. Lady has to say; my experience from quite a few meetings with the NDA is that transparency is very good, but I am happy to engage with her if she has a specific concern in relation to transparency in any nuclear plant in or near her constituency.

To deliver the Government’s ambitious roll-out of renewables such as solar—but also nuclear electricity, if that is what the Government want—we need to proactively develop grid capacity. Why have the Government still not reformed the remit of Ofgem, which is a real barrier to increasing grid capacity?

The hon. Lady is right: we have to make sure that our grid capacity is good for the big expansion of renewables, and indeed for the big expansion of nuclear, which is what this question is about. By the way, she might have a conversation with some of her colleagues, two of whom have recently mentioned support for nuclear— against Lib Dem party policy, it would seem. We and Ofgem are looking very actively at grid capacity: a lot of reviews are going on and there is a lot of action to ensure that grid capacity is in place, not least for the quadrupling of our offshore wind capacity.