It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I congratulate my hon. Friend Trudy Harrison on securing this timely debate.
As I see it, continued instability in the middle east, coupled with an increasingly hostile Russian state, means that it is now vital that we once again establish our own independent source of clean, affordable, low-carbon domestic energy, to achieve our energy security. Since the first nuclear power station was connected to the national grid in 1956, nuclear has become a major contributor to the UK’s energy market, with 21% of all electricity now generated in that way. However, with seven stations due to be decommissioned in the next 10 to 15 years, the stark reality is that the UK faces a potential energy gap before new conventional nuclear stations can be brought online. To bridge that gap, we must look towards innovation. In small modular reactors, which take a relatively short period of time to construct—estimated to be between two and five years—I believe we have a ready-made solution.
It is estimated by a UK small modular reactor consortium led by Rolls-Royce that the design, development and production of a fleet of small modular reactors has the potential to create up to 40,000 skilled jobs in the nuclear supply chain and to add more than one £100 billion to our economy. Translated to a local level, with Derby being the centre of Roll-Royce’s nuclear operation in the UK, a sustained programme of SMR production in the city would see significant new job opportunities open up for my constituents, as well as in the supply chain.
It is clear that the Government have made a degree of progress in fostering this new technology in partnership with the UK’s civil nuclear sector. The small modular reactor competition was launched in 2016, followed by £56 million to develop and regulate designs in 2017, but with the clock ticking we need to accelerate the UK’s efforts to develop this technology. I therefore urge the Minister to review the Government’s energy strategy and to put a renewed emphasis on supporting the nuclear industry.
We have a golden opportunity to become a world leader in new nuclear technology and at the same time to secure an independent supply of domestic energy. I once again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland on bringing this important debate to the House. I look forward to the Minister’s response.