It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I thank Trudy Harrison for bringing forward this important debate. I begin with a message to the Minister: Hartlepool has the best and most skilled workforce in the industry, and we already have a licence for our site. The Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which has been mentioned, keeps our nuclear facilities and workers safe right around the clock. I know that we all support its federation in its attempt to resolve pension and retirement inequality issues. I hope and trust that that matter will be resolved soon.
One of the big positives about the new technology is that it shows that the nuclear industry remains a major asset for meeting our future energy needs. Our world needs more low-carbon power. The nuclear sector deal sets out pledges from the Government and the industry itself to make cost reductions in nuclear, and initiatives to support the sector. Arguably, SMRs are central to that vision. They meet the increased demand for low-carbon solutions and produce clean, affordable energy; they are much smaller than traditional nuclear reactors, and over their lifecycle they could deliver £62 billion into the economy and create up to 40,000 jobs, as Maggie Throup highlighted.
Our friends at EDF Energy successfully operate the advanced gas-cooled reactor in Hartlepool, which provides electricity for more than 3% of the UK, with a net electrical output of 1,190 MW—enough to power 1.5 million homes—but that reactor is coming to the end of its lifecycle, and decisions need to be made about the future provision of nuclear on the site. EDF has lots of good ideas and is keen to develop alternatives. If necessary, that may include further extending the life of the current plant or developing next-generation technology, like at Hinkley Point C.
Sadly, as we have seen with projects at Anglesey and Moorside, we cannot rely 100% on foreign investment to build our fleet of next-generation nuclear. That is why SMRs—developed and driven by a British consortium based on tried and tested technology, offering the same output as traditional larger reactors with a lower carbon footprint—are important. The UK’s nuclear sector is among the most varied in the world, but its future needs to be secured by direct Government investment in projects such as the development of SMRs. Either way, given the circumstances the industry faces, we need to know whether the future of nuclear energy in Hartlepool is secure. I seek the Minister’s assurance that it is.