Nuclear Power Stations

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1991.

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Mr. Alan W. Williams:

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a further statement on the decommissioning of nuclear power stations.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

Decommissioning is a matter for nuclear power station operators to consider within the guidelines on safety and environmental protection set by the Health and Safety Executive's nuclear installations inspectorate and Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution.

Mr. Williams:

In its proposals for "deferred dry store", is it right that Nuclear Electric should consider postponing the decommissioning of nuclear power stations by 30 years, which would leave the problem to future generations to tackle? Is not the idea of simply "mounding over" spent nuclear power stations to create massive nuclear tombs environmentally irresponsible? Does the Minister agree that Nuclear Electric's proposals amount to an admission of defeat, because it simply does not know how to dismantle nuclear power stations and is terrified of the cost?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I do not accept that. When considering decommissioning it is important to ensure the continued safety of the workers, the public and the environment. That will be ensured by continued control by the regulators. Nuclear Electric's proposals demonstrate its commitment to seeking the most cost-effective strategy, which takes account of safety and environmental concerns.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

Will my right hon. Friend reflect that, when those nuclear power stations, particularly the Magnox power stations, were first built, it was intended—it was Government policy—that the sites should be mounded in that way? Does he agree that to do anything other than that would be a total waste of what will probably become taxpayers' rather than private operators' money?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I always listen to my hon. Friend with considerable care when he is talking about such matters. However, the nuclear installations inspectorate is considering those proposals and it would not be right for me to comment further.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

When the Government privatised the electricity supply industry they agreed that a levy of 10·6 per cent. would be added to people's electricity bills to pay for the difference between the cost of expensive nuclear power and fossil fuel. That levy has now increased to 11 per cent. Given that, at that stage, it was meant to cover the total decommissioning of power stations over 100 years and that the nuclear industry now talks about decommissioning over 130 years, why has there been no decrease in electricity bills?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The levy was set for the first five years on a declining basis. It has gone up from 10·6 to 11 per cent. because of estimated differences in the take off. However, I confirm that there is still a trend downwards over the eight years.