My hon. Friend is absolutely right that that is the historical record. He argued the case consistently when he performed my role. It is a pity that
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successive Governments have not listened to sane voices on these Benches and elsewhere that have opposed reprocessing.
Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell) (LD): We have successfully made a case on a financial basis for many years because the evidence has proved us right on every occasion. Does my hon. Friend accept that there is now an equally fundamental argument? Government Members try to make the case for nuclear power by saying that it is a way of tackling the energy and climate change problems that we face. What message is being sent to developing countries, some of which are unstableincluding Iranwhen we argue against them developing nuclear power because of the risk of proliferation, while developed countries such as ours say that that is the only solution?
Norman Baker: I think that the Government and the Minister for Energy took steps in December to try to help Russia and Kazakhstan to move away from nuclear power and to encourage decommissioning. They have made the point in international forums that reprocessing can produce plutonium, which, of course, can be used in nuclear weapons. It is odd that we encourage countries to go down one road, but perhaps go down a different road ourselves.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): The Liberal Democrats are a Francophile party. What lessons do they take from the fact that France generates 75 per cent. of its electricity using nuclear power? We need a balanced debate, so does the hon. Gentleman accept that nuclear, renewables and energy saving are not mutually exclusive?
Norman Baker: No, I do not accept that, and I shall explain why nuclear power would not address climate change. Nuclear has been described as a carbon-free technology, but it is nothing of the sort. Nuclear power generation and the construction of nuclear power facilities create a considerable carbon footprint. Work done by a university in the Netherlands has suggested that the carbon footprint of a nuclear facility is equivalent to between 20 and 40 per cent. of that of a gas-fired power station over the lifetime of its existence, when one takes account of the mining of uranium, transport and decommissioning.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): I have some figures that refer to the entire life cycle of Torness nuclear power station that take account of the extraction of ore and decommissioning at the end of the station's life. Some 950 g of carbon dioxide is produced for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by coal. The figure for gas is 400 g, but it is only 5.05 g for nuclear.
That is a different figure from the one that I have, but I accept that it is difficult to pin down precisely. However, the fact is that it is becoming more difficult to mine uranium, which results in a higher carbon impact. The figures that I gave are the latest ones from a university in the Netherlands. Even if we split the difference, we are still talking about a significant carbon footprint.
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Mr. Chaytor: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the life cycle emissions of nuclear are an important matter. Is not the discrepancy between the two figures that we have heard quoted likely to be the result of the lower figure not taking account of the full nuclear life cycle? It does not take account of the full impact of CO 2 emissions from uranium mining, and it certainly does not take account of emissions from waste management, because we do not yet know how to manage nuclear waste.
The reason we cannot have the mix referred to is simple: there is only so much money. A new generation of nuclear power stations would be hugely expensive to build and would draw heavily on the public purse. We have seen over the past 20 years that when money is put into nuclear, there is none left for renewables and energy efficiency. They will wither on the vine and the message that will go out to the renewables industry is, "Nuclear is back big timeyou can forget about your wind farms, your tidal power and your solar power." We cannot have them all together.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): Is my hon. Friend aware that according to Friends of the Earth the amount of electricity used annually in the G8 countries just by appliances on standby is equivalent to the output of 24 full-scale power stations? If we bring that back to the UK level, we can see that the savings that could be achieved through a proper campaign to inform people of what they can do simply by pushing a button would have far more impact than spending a lot of time reviewing the nuclear issue.
Norman Baker: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government could do far more to reduce energy usefor example, they could be pressing for the redesign of appliances. Why do we still have so many fridges that perform so badly? Figures from the Government's performance and innovation unitthey must be accuratesuggest that every £1 spent on energy efficiency secures seven times more carbon displacement than spending £1 on nuclear power.
Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab):
Before the hon. Gentleman moves on, I want to clarify one point relating to cost. I read an article by his esteemed colleague the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), who is the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, in the 29 December edition of The Times. Judging by that article, it seems that one of their party's main objections to nuclear is its cost. The Finns say that they have solved their problem by selling electricity supplies over a period of 60 years to companies, local
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authorities and others. Has the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) studied that example, and if so, how would he fault it?
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): May I help my hon. Friend out? The Finnish example is not an example of private funding. The consortium that is commissioning the nuclear power station in Finland contains one entirely nationalised power company and a number of local authorities, including the City of Helsinki. In addition, the Finnish Government are accepting residual liabilities in respect of both waste and decommissioning.
That is what the nuclear industry experts are saying. Most significantly, a major programme of nuclear investment would stifle the opportunity that exists now to decentralise the grid and to facilitate the small-scale, dispersed and highly efficient portfolio of renewables that is necessary to meet the White Paper objectives. We need to work towards a decentralised energy future, not one based on centralised generation in faraway locations and pylons stretching across the country. A different future is possible, but that alternative will be set aside for 20 or 25 years if we go for a new generation of nuclear power.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Gentleman has not yet mentioned fusion. If he agrees that fusion is one of the future technologies, will he explain how he thinks we could achieve a world in which we can count on fusion without nuclear understanding?
Norman Baker: Our proposal is not about nuclear fusion, but we do not oppose continuing scientific investment in nuclear fusionalthough I have to say that over the years nuclear fusion has swallowed up a great deal of money and we have little to show for it, whereas if the money had been spent on renewables and energy efficiency we would be in a better position than we are today.
"a new fleet of nuclear generating stations . . . would inevitably involve massive public subsidies which could be used to greater benefit in promoting the deployment of renewable generators and, most especially, the marine technologies of wave and tidal steam exploiting the uniquely rich natural energy resources of the United Kingdom."
There is undoubtedly a strong feeling in the House, not confined to Liberal Democrat Members, that there is an alternative way forward that the Minister ought to grab.
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We cannot maintain the big tent philosophy that pretends that we can have everything; we cannot. If we have nuclear, everything else will be squeezed out. That is the message that the Government have not accepted, but they need to accept it before the review proceeds much further. There is not enough money for all the technologies. The grid will be designed to serve the nuclear industry and will be counter-productive to the decentralised energy future that I want us to have.
It is worth pointing out that the Government's performance and innovation unit estimates that the unit electricity cost of the new AP1000 will be between 3p and 4p per kWh, that of onshore wind 1.5p to 2.5p per kWh and that of offshore wind 2p to 3p per kWh.