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Column 353Generating Board in the preparation of the reply by Mr. R. J. Tivey to the Hinkley C inquiry secretariat on plutonium accounting dated 25 April 1989, inquiry code number S 3481 part 2.
Mr. Michael Spicer : My Department is aware of some 20 proposed private generation projects with a total capacity of around 7 GW. Details of individual projects are commercially confidential until companies announce them.
Mr. Michael Spicer : No estimate has been made of the total cost or the effect on jobs of decommissioning all United Kingdom nuclear power stations by the year 2000. Although some existing nuclear power stations will be taken out of service by the year 2000, many will continue to operate well into the next century, as will those now under construction or planned. After the existing nuclear power stations are taken out of service the power station operators propose to delay the final stage of decommissioning for a period of the order of 100 years to take the benefit of the process of radioactive decay in the reactor core.
27. Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the backlog of spent advanced gas-cooled vector fuel at Sellafield, the corrosion problems being encountered and the implications for electricity supplies in the 1990s.
Mr. Michael Spicer : British Nuclear Fuels plc has ample pond space at Sellafield to receive the projected quantities of deliveries of spent AGR fuel from the home generating boards and their successors. BNFL's extensive research into the storage of AGR fuel under water suggests that, for fuel maintained in the correct water chemistry, no significant corrosion will occur for at least 10 years, and possibly longer.
30. Ms. Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what guidance he has given to the director general-designate of the Office of Electricity Regulation on the best means of defending the interest of consumers.
Mr. Michael Spicer : The Electricity Bill sets out the Director General of Electricity Supply's duties in relation to the protection of consumers' interests. It will create many new rights for the consumer, including an improved right to an electricity supply, protection for consumers
Column 354who get their electricity from a landlord, protection for the elderly and disabled, help for those having difficulty paying bills and a new system of guaranteed standards of performance with automatic compensation for failures to meet these standards. The director general will have a statutory duty to protect the interests of the consumer and the new regional consumers committees will provide him with lay advice on consumer issues.
Mr. Murphy : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what guidance he has given to the director general-designate of the Office of Electricity Regulation on the regulator's independence from political interference.
Mr. Parkinson : The director general's powers and duties are set out clearly in the Electricity Bill. The Government believe that Professor Littlechild will be a strong, effective and independent regulator.
32. Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is his latest estimate of the number of pressurised water reactor nuclear power stations in the small family which the Central Electricity Generating Board intends to build.
Mr. Michael Spicer : I understand that it is the CEGB's wish that the small family should consist of Sizewell B, which is currently under construction, and Hinkley Point C, Wylfa B and Sizewell C, in respect of which they have made applications for my right hon. Friend's consent.
Mr. Michael Spicer : Decisions to apply for consent to construct new power stations are a matter for the electricity supply industry. So far my right hon. Friend has received applications for his consent to the construction of a further three PWR nuclear power stations which are similar in design to that being constructed at Sizewell B.
My Department has been active in promoting novel applications of CHP industry and commerce through its energy efficiency demonstration scheme where 25 projects have been supported. The Government have also encouraged the economic development of urban combined heat and power/district heating schemes under its lead city programme and contributed towards studies in Belfast, Edinburgh and Leicester. Other work to examine the feasibility of major CHP/DH schemes and to develop proposals has been taken forward without Government support. In addition to the lead city studies and subsequent development of the Leicester scheme, my Department is aware of work being done by groups in Newcastle, Sheffield and south-east London. The commissioning date of new schemes is, however, a commercial matter for the promoters.
Column 355The Government are also taking measures under the provisions of the Electricity Bill to enable CHP operators to compete with the established utilities. In this regard we are giving licensed CHP operators power to break streets to lay cables and heat mains.
35. Mr Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the total cost incurred to date by his Department on advice on financial aspects of the privatisation of the electricity supply industry.
52. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will state the total cost incurred to date by his Department on advice on legal aspects of the privatisation of the electricity supply industry.
Mr. Michael Spicer : The total cost to my Department of all advisers working on electricity privatisation amounted to £0.8 million in 1987- 88 and £5.5 million in 1988-89. In addition, a provision of £26.5 million has been sought to cover relevant expenses in 1989-90. More detailed expenditure surrounding contracts of advisers working on electricity privatisation is commercially confidential.
45. Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is his latest estimate of the advertising costs of privatising the electricity supply industry in (a) the current and (b) next financial year.
For example, the generation market will include National Power, Power Gen, supplies from Scotland and France, and existing and potential independent generators. We are currently aware of about 20 proposed independent generation projects. The substantial requirement for new generation capacity in the next 10 years will provide further opportunities for competition.
Mr. Michael Spicer : All the storage facilities for spent fuel at Sellafield are subject to constant review and assessment by the Health and Safety Executive's nuclear installations inspectorate as part of the routine inspections which it carries out.
Mr. Michael Spicer : Almost all the major independent projects known to my Department are proposing to use gas-powered turbines. In addition, the National Power and Power Gen divisions of the CEGB has each recently applied for my consent to construct two gas-fired stations.
40. Dr. Moonie : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what provision he is making for National Power to renegotiate contracts signed with British Nuclear Fuels plc before electricity privatisation.
Mr. Michael Spicer : The CEGB is currently in discussion with BNFL concerning contracts for fuel services which will continue post privatisation and will take account of the powers that the Government are seeking under clause 93 of the Electricity Bill. The Government's aim is that these contracts should be fair as between BNFL and the electricity supply industry.
41. Mr. Michael Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is British Coal's record of productivity in coal production since 1985 ; and what information he has on comparable figures for other major international coal producers.
Mr. Michael Spicer : British Coal's productivity rose by over 30 per cent. from 2.72 tonnes per manshift in 1985-86 to 3.62 tonnes in 1987-88. In Australia productivity rose from 12.32 tonnes in 1984-85 to 13.96 tonnes in 1986-87 (the latest period for which figures are available), a rise of 13 per cent., and in the United States of America productivity (measured in short tons) rose from 14.69 to 18.18 tons between the calendar years 1985 to 1987, a rise of 23 per cent. Since then, British Coal's productivity has increased further to 4.14 tonnes per manshift in 1988-89 ; I understand that there have also been substantial productivity gains in Australia and the United States of America since 1987.
43. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the joint memorandum of understanding signed by the World Association of Nuclear Operators and the International Atomic Energy Agency on 6 June.
Mr. Michael Spicer : A joint memorandum of understanding between the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was signed at the agency's headquarters in Vienna on 6 June. The agreement was signed by Lord Marshall of Goring, who is chairman of WANO's governing board, and Dr. Hans Blix, Director General of the IAEA. The memorandum provides for the open exchange of information covering technical reports and reviews of operational experience, as well as extending to participation in meetings of mutual benefit to both organisations.
46. Mr. Douglas : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the current state of negotiations between British Coal and the South of Scotland electricity board relating to output from the Longannet complex.
Mr. Michael Spicer : The Government have made it quite clear that they regard the negotiations between British Coal and the South of Scotland electricity board as a commercial matter for the two parties, but we see no reason why a mutually satisfactory settlement cannot be reached. In the meantime, I understand that the SSEB is taking supplies from British Coal at a rate of 2 million tonnes a year.
Column 358for the owners of the spent fuel to decide on safety, technical and economic grounds whether to reprocess spent fuel.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what evidence his Department has that plutonium created in Central Electricity Generating Board Magnox nuclear reactors up to 31 March 1969, and subsequently, put into the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority military stockpile has not been used in nuclear warhead production subsequently.
Mr. Michael Spicer : Plutonium created in the CEGB Magnox reactors and purchased by the UKAEA prior to 31 March 1969, was consigned to the United States before 1971 under the mutual defence agreement. The United States authorities have said that none of this plutonium has been used in weapons and that this continues to be their policy. For the civil uses to which this plutonium has been put in the United States, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore) to my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Mr. Rost) on 27 July 1982 at column 438.
Mr. Peter Morrison : We have received a number of letters from the public, and from Members on behalf of their constituents, expressing concern at increases in the prices of petrol. I have had no further representations since prices fell more recently.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many spent Magnox fuel rods await reprocessing (a) in storage tanks at Sellafield and (b) in cooling ponds at Britain's nuclear power stations.
Mr. Michael Spicer : At 31 March 1989, some 940 tonnes uranium (u) of spent Magnox fuel were held at Sellafield awaiting reprocessing and some 350 tonnes u held by the generating boards at power stations. On average there are 100 fuel rods per tonne.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the total storage capacity for spent advanced gas-cooled reactor fuel rods at Sellafield and at nuclear power stations for each year from 1989 to 2000.
Column 359AGR fuel assemblies) has been allocated in ponds on the Sellafield site. This will be more than sufficient to meet operational requirements for the THORP project. The total pond capacity at the AGR stations operated by the generating boards is some 390 tonnes u (some 9,400 assemblies).
Mr. Michael Spicer : No new information on Severn barrage studies has become available since I replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) on 12 June (at column 267 ) on this subject. I refer my hon. Friend to that answer.
Dr. Kim Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if, following the decision to withdraw major funding for the fast reactor programme at Dounreay, the Government will reconsider their continuing support for the nuclear reprocessing industry ; (2) if, following the recent announcement by the West German Government that they are to abandon their projected nuclear reprocessing facility at Wackersdorf for financial and environmental reasons, the Government will reconsider their continued support for the nuclear reprocessing industry.
Mr. Michael Spicer : Reprocessing is a proven and safe technology for which there is a continuing demand. BNFL has contracts with overseas customers for reprocessing in THORP worth some £2.77 billion in total. Additional contracts worth some £1.6 billion are being negotiated with utilities in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is for the owners of the spent fuel to decide on safety, technical and economic grounds whether to reprocess spent fuel.
Mr. Michael Spicer : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced on 21 March that the Government had accepted Nirex's recommendation that further investigatory work should be carried out to assess the potential of Sellafield and Dounreay as possible sites for a deep repository for radioactive waste. Since that time I have received two representations expressing concern about these proposals.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy which countries have been the destination of transfers of nuclear technology, reprocessing and waste management which have been subject to Government approval since June 1988 ; and if he will provide details of all such transfers.
Mr. Parkinson : The initial rate of the fossil fuel levy will depend on the outcome of contract negotiations for fossil and non-fossil generating capacity which are currently under way. The rate will be announced towards the end of this year.
Mr. Peter Morrison : My Department's latest estimates of oil and gas reserves were given in my right hon. Friend's report on the development of the oil and gas resources of the United Kingdom ("The Brown Book") published in April. I have received no representations about the estimates, other than views expressed by the companies concerned in the course of their preparation.
Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had during the last six months with the Central Electricity Generating Board and with British Nuclear Fuels plc in regard to the storage and reprocessing of radioactive material.
Mr. Hayward : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) how many civil servants currently employed in his Department are involved with exploration, development and extraction of oil from the North sea ; (2) if he has had any discussions with any of the oil companies involved in the North sea concerning the possible relocation of the Department's civil servants responsible for exploration, development and extraction of the North sea outside London ;
(3) what consideration has been given to relocating those civil servants responsible for exploration, development and extraction of oil within the Department of Energy away from London ;
(4) what impact the decision of Conoco to concentrate its exploration operations division at Aberdeen and Shell and BP's increased emphasis on exploration and operations in Scotland has had on his policy in relation to the location of the Department's operations ;
(5) what saving would be made by relocation of all the Department of Energy's civil servants dealing with exploration, development and extraction of oil from the North sea, from London to Glasgow ; (6) what saving would be made by the relocation of all the Department of Energy's civil servants dealing with exploration, development and extraction of oil from the North sea, from London to Aberdeen ;
(7) what saving would be made by the relocation of all the Department of Energy's civil servants dealing with exploration, development and extraction of oil from the North sea, from London to Edinburgh.
Mr. Peter Morrison : There are 174 staff currently employed in my Department's petroleum engineering division, which is responsible for ensuring as far as possible the maximum economic and safe recovery of the United Kingdom's petroleum resources. Of these 16 staff, concerned with offshore safety, are already located in Aberdeen. Following a review in 1987 it was decided that a move of the division as a whole outside London was not feasible. It was estimated that no financial savings would arise from such a move. Moreover the division is very much involved in providing advice to Ministers and has day-to-day discussions with the headquarters of the companies in the oil and gas industry, most of whom remain located in London. If further consideration is given in the future to the relocation of staff in the division, the location of the companies' operations will be a relevant factor, though only one of a number of factors. No specific discussions have been held with the companies on this issue. Moreover of the 90 or so staff in the Department's Offshore Supplies Office, which is responsible for the promotion of the United Kingdom offshore supplies industry on the United Kingdom continental shelf and worldwide, some 80 are based in Scotland.
Mr. Barron : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the number of ex-mineworkers who are currently receiving payments under the redundant mineworkers pension scheme for the years 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980- 81, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86 and 1986-87.
Year of redundancy |Beneficiaries as at 1 |April 1989 ------------------------------------------------------------------ 1979-80 |8 1980-81 |149 1981-82 |1,268 1982-83 |2,183 1983-84 |13,332 1984-85 |5,457 1985-86 |21,036 1986-87 |16,758 |------- Total payees |60,191
Mr. Michael Spicer : Work on retrofitting flue gas desulphurisation equipment to Drax power station is proceeding well. I expect to receive an application for the next retrofit during the course of this year.
Nine significant discoveries have been announced.