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Mr. Ellwood: My hon. Friend's valid point, which has been echoed in the Chamber, concerns education. Does he agree that some of the best-informed people on nuclear energy in this country are those who live close by nuclear reactors?
Mr. Goodwill: That is true. At the Hartlepool nuclear station, there is an energy centre where children can go to learn about nuclear energy, and the same is true at Sellafield. I am sorry to say that organisations such as Greenpeace do themselves few favours in the way that they inform people; in fact, I think they are more in the business of scaremongering than peddling information.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my alarm at the hysteria radiating from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench and agree that when it comes to discussing energy, we should be calm, considered, logical and robust?
I am grateful for that intervention. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats have being listening too
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much to Greenpeace and its scaremongering. The worst things in the ghost ships were asbestos, which is found in many buildings around this city and can be dealt with competently, and some PCBs in the electrical wiring. No. 3 on the list of toxic products in the ghost ships was fuel oil.
Casting my mind further back, I recall the Brent Spar. Greenpeace said that that platform was full of nasty products and could not be sunk in the sea, but had to apologise because the platform was basically full of concrete. We must bear it in mind that organisations such as Greenpeace are political organisations and the scares that they peddle in the media translate to people making donations to them. We cannot expect to get a balanced opinion from them. Most people in this country get their opinion on nuclear from watching episodes of "The Simpsons", and we need to make the case for nuclear and not just steamroller it through.
Safety is my primary concern. In 1999, I visited the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. It was the only place in Ukraine where we saw a statue of Lenin, which, as it was contaminated, was cheaper to leave than to remove. We know of the devastation caused in that part of Ukraine and southern Belarus following the accident in 1986. When we passed through the checkpoint, we were surprised that it took another 20 minutes to arrive at the station, such is the area of Ukraine that is now condemned for many hundreds of years and where people will not live. We visited the deserted town of Pripyat and went into the control room where the unsanctioned experiments were carried out. At Chernobyl, I was most alarmed by the vehicle graveyard. It consists of mounds covering some 250 acres, which our Ukrainian hosts said contained the vehicles used in the immediate aftermath of the accident. In answer to our question about the vehicles' drivers, we were told that they were heroes of the Soviet Union.
We must not allow another Chernobyl to take place, but I do not think that such an accident could happen in the west, as we have a different safety culture and our reactors use secondary containment and core catchers. I believe that our licensing system will ensure that reactor designs sanctioned in this country will be nothing like the ones adopted in the Soviet Union. I used to drive a Lada; it was very unreliable, but my experiences with it did not mean that I never wanted a car again.
Another problem is the way in which the nuclear industry is treated in the media. Last year, two workers were sadly killed in a nuclear power station in Japan. The story was all over the newspapers, but the men were killed by a steam leak in the turbine room. That accident could have happened in any type of power station, but it just so happened that a nuclear power station was involved. The media always get very hysterical about nuclear power, and we must cut through that hysteria and look at the facts.
We also need to deal with the problem of waste. I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will know the old joke about how many nuclear physicists it takes to change a light bulb. The answer is 100one to change the bulb, and 99 to decide what to do with the old one for the next 10,000 years.
In Canada, it was interesting to meet Liz Dowdeswell, who came to that country's nuclear waste commission with impeccable green credentials. She is not exactly
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Canada's Jonathon Porritt, but she is along those lines. The Canadians have looked at the waste problem in a very logical way. I am pleased that our radiological waste management committee in the UK will produce a draft report in April, as we cannot go ahead with new nuclear build until we have an adequate answer to the waste problem. Initially, much of the waste will have to be stored at power stations. After that, we will have to find long-term depositories, but the waste will have to remain accessible as we may need to use it again in the future.
I welcome the energy review commissioned by the Government. I reject the Liberal Democrat motion, which shuts too many doors without looking at the possibilities. I really believe that nuclear power will have a part to play in the future, and I hope that the Government come to that decision.
Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): I wanted to speak in last week's debate on the energy review, and was sorry not to have had an opportunity to do so. I am therefore very pleased to be able to contribute to this debate, but I have to say that the eight minutes available to Back-Bench speakers is nowhere near enough. The same is true of the four hours available last week.
Joan Walley: Never mind about thatmy plea to Ministers is to ensure that sufficient time is made available in this Parliament for a properly informed debate on all aspects of energy generation and supply and demand in the energy market.
The House needs no reminding about the scale of the challenge. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right to make climate change one of the top priorities for our G8 and EU presidencies. We can also be proud of the way in which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has led the debate, both nationally and internationally, but time is running out. Wake-up calls have come from people such as James Lovelock and Lester Brown, as well as from David King, the Government's scientific adviser, to the effect that the real threat from climate change is greater than the threat from terrorism. We must make sure that this House is involved in the entire debate about the energy review.
Earlier, the question was raised as to whether an energy review is really necessary, but I do not see how things now are all that much different from the position in 2003. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) to the extent that things do change, but I maintain that we must set out our route and our objectives so that we can ensure that we remain on target and that we do not go off in another direction.
My fear is that the question of nuclear power may be a Trojan horse. We must not be pulled off course, and that means that a level playing for the review is absolutely essential. We must also ensure that the other Government reviews that are under way, including the
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Stern review from the Treasury, the climate change review and the review of renewables, are part and parcel of the consultation that will be formally announced on 23 January.
We should put on the record the importance of cutting UK carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 by 60 per cent., with progress made by 2020; of the need to maintain the reliability of energy supplies; of promoting competition and competitive markets in the UK and beyond; and of ensuring that everyone's home is adequately and affordably heated. Those are the key components of our energy strategy and those objectives are as valid today as they were in 2003.
Given that we are now about to embark on a further review, I want my hon. Friend the Minister to respond to some of my concerns. Will he give the House an undertaking that the review will be open and transparent? I have fears about the advisers who will give evidence and provide briefings and written reports. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider whether all the information that he gets could be made available to the House through the Library. We also need to know whether we will have a register of interests for those submitting evidence to the review. It is important to know where they are coming from and whether they have any other motive for the advice that they give to the Government.
Ministers should also consider ways of making regular statements to both Houses of Parliament and ensuring that Members can access all the information, so that we are equipped to invite the general public to take part in the debate. In that way, we can see what can be done at a local level to meet all the objectives that the Government have already set.
We also need a full appraisal of all the costs associated with the energy review. That appraisal must not be flawed. In 1998, for example, the non-fossil fuel levy provided billions of pounds to the nuclear industry, and it was clear that that subsidy helped to support technologies and keep costs low. Therefore, we need a similar calculation of how similar investment in renewables could affect future costs. The same certainty is needed when it comes to the time scales for planning and development. It is interesting that there has so far been no rush to build new nuclear plants. We need to ask where the up-front capital to do so will come from, when revenue streams from a new generation of nuclear power will be many years down the line. Once there are new nuclear power stations, the investors will need long-term guarantees of take-up, but that is likely to mean major problems for the structure of the energy market. Whatever is said about a mix of nuclear and renewables, if the Government choose to pick winners in that way, it could shut off developments in microchip and renewables. Major investment in nuclear power would not necessarily be compatible with renewables. We have to have a level playing field so that we do not rule out all the other options.
I do not have time tonight to address the issues of waste or risk assessment, or the huge opportunities that the Government had in 2003 to ensure that every Department, from the Treasury to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, did more, in a joined-up way, on energy efficiency, changing building design standards and other issues. So much depends on how the Government undertake the energy review and how they
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address energy efficiency. Parliament needs to know how we are to be involved. Does the Minister recognise the expertise of Select Committees? Is there a framework whereby Select Committees, perhaps through the Liaison Committee, could have input?
What matters is that we have a full investigation of all the options. There will be no thanks if we get the energy review right, but we shall never be forgiven if we get it wrong. At this eleventh hour, I urge the Minister to ensure that there is a genuine commitment to full disclosure, full public input
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