Nuclear Power Stations

Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 31 January 2013.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West 9:30, 31 January 2013

What recent assessment he has made of the potential construction of new nuclear power stations.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

The Government are firmly committed to ensure the conditions are right for investment in new nuclear power, and welcome plans for around 16 GW of new nuclear power in the UK. It is up to energy companies to construct, operate and decommission nuclear power stations. It will be for Government and the independent regulators to ensure safety and security and to maximise the benefit. The future is bright and safe: the future is nuclear.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

Professor Tom Burke, a former Government adviser, said on Tuesday that the Government are planning in secret to spend up to £30 billion in subsidy to new nuclear. New nuclear is in trouble in Finland and in France—years late and billions over budget. Are the Government going to break their promise to have no nuclear subsidies, and if they are going to break that promise, can the Minister guarantee that there will be full transparency and opportunities for Parliament to discuss, debate and vote against it?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I have no secrets from this House. Of course the Government are going to be transparent about the process. Of course the Government are going to ensure taxpayer value for money. The hon. Gentleman has a history of being against Trident, which is about our future. He has a history of being against the monarchy, which is also about our future. We knew that he wanted to ban the bomb and ban the monarchy; we now know that he wants to ban the future.

Photo of Charles Hendry Charles Hendry Conservative, Wealden

Yesterday’s decision of Cumbria county council not to take forward work to explore the suitability of the local area for a deep geological facility for nuclear waste seems to me to be a pretty serious blow, especially to Sellafield’s own aspirations to be a global centre of nuclear expertise. What steps does the Minister plan to take to take forward that critical work, which has to be an integral part of a nuclear renaissance? Will he look at alternative technologies such as GE Hitachi’s PRISM—power reactor innovative small module—technology?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Of course disposal matters, but let me be clear: our plans for nuclear to be part of an energy mix are firm, resolute and will not be spoiled by anything that has been described. These are important matters, but the certainty and clarity that I described earlier are uninterrupted by these events.

Photo of Jamie Reed Jamie Reed Shadow Minister (Health)

Cumbria county council’s decision would have been described by John Ruskin as a “pathetic fallacy”. Will the Minister undertake to recognise the democratic mandate given by the people to the councils in west Cumbria to embark on a process of managing the country’s radioactive waste as a matter of urgency? Will he agree to meet me, and representatives of the trade unions, in order to establish a new process so that we can take action in the national interest?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I was looking at that Ruskin quotation last night, as it happens, and wondering whether I could weave it in.

The hon. Gentleman has been notable for his support for nuclear power, because he understands its significance to the energy mix. He is right: there are very different views in Cumbria, and we should not characterise them in a casual fashion. Of course we will continue to work with local communities who understand the importance of long-term disposal in the same way as the hon. Gentleman and many of his friends in Cumbria.

Photo of Tom Greatrex Tom Greatrex Shadow Minister (Energy)

If the Minister were concerned about transparency, he would have voted for our amendments to the Energy Bill earlier this week, which would have increased transparency and given comfort to my hon. Friend Paul Flynn and many others.

As for yesterday’s decision in Cumbria, the Minister has rightly noted that west Cumbrian authorities voted to support the study, although the county council did not. The Secretary of State said that he would embark on a new drive to make the case for waste disposal to other communities. This morning the president of his party, Tim Farron—who is not in the Chamber—was quoted in the

Financial Times as saying that Oxfordshire was more suitable. Is that the policy of the party that is the Minister’s coalition partner, and, if so, has it been discussed with the Prime Minister?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

We will have discussions with the communities who understand the significance of this and its potential value to them, and of course those discussions will be ongoing.

Let me be clear about transparency. In the Bill Committee to which he referred, the hon. Gentleman has repeatedly made the case for a more transparent approach, and I am sympathetic to that argument. This Government must be characterised by openness in the way in which they conduct their affairs, in this matter and in all matters.