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Energy Security: Nuclear Power

Volume 711: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2022

6. What assessment he has made of the capacity of the UK’s nuclear power generation industry to strengthen energy security. (906341)

Nuclear energy is crucial in providing low-carbon baseload power, which, over the long term, assists in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and our exposure to volatile global prices. We will continue to emphasise the vital role of the nuclear sector, including in the forthcoming energy supply strategy.

Our very own atomic kitten, my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), and I are going on a road trip to Hinkley Point C. When I did my research for the visit, I noticed that £5 million-worth of business opportunities had been realised by 36 companies in the west midlands, including three in my constituency, on the back of Hinkley Point C. Does the Minister agree that our investment in nuclear energy is not just about clean energy but about the supply chain opportunities that it will bring to small and medium-sized enterprises and manufacturing in my constituency?

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise not only the importance of nuclear in concept but the huge significance of the supply chain, which is estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs across the whole of the United Kingdom, including in SMEs in Stourbridge and Ynys Môn. And if I may shove in my knowledge of early 2000s pop music, we are working hard to make the nuclear industry whole again. [Laughter.]

That was written by a member of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, so we will give the Minister that.

Energy security is of vital significance, particularly at the moment, and nuclear is part of the clean energy mix. Does the Minister understand that the United Kingdom, which has the second highest tidal range on planet Earth after Canada, is not making anything like sufficient use of that permanent tidal energy? Will he look again at his Government’s policies on tidal, marine and hydro energy and give a boost not only to Cumbria and its energy coast but to the whole country?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the importance of a diversified and secure energy supply. This is one of the reasons that the Government are looking at all forms, including tidal, and it is why we would encourage people from across the House to agree not just with tidal but with nuclear as well.

In the 2018 nuclear sector deal, £20 million was pledged towards Britain’s first thermal hydraulic testing facility, in north Wales. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that the UK establish world-leading capabilities in thermal hydraulics, and can he provide an update on the next steps for this vital investment?

My hon. Friend is an absolute champion of the nuclear industry. I believe that this proposal would make the UK third in the world. We are working hard to see what can be done and I will certainly pass on her keenness for progress to be made.