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Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend accept that of the five major energy sources that might be considered in the review, the only one that has no indigenous raw materials whatever is nuclear power?
Mr. Reed: I accept that, but although we have talked a lot about indigenous materials, we have not talked about reprocessing. If we wished to reprocess, we would have sufficient resources for our nuclear power stations for decades.
Senator Kerry also called for a "declaration of energy independence" for the United States. Hon. Members should now call for a declaration of energy security for
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Britain. The current review of energy policy, which I assume the debate is designed to influence, must address not only our energy needs, but, crucially, our environmental, economic, national security and foreign policy needs.
We desperately need to control our energy production and the supply of the resources that we require to produce that energy. The ways in which we do that are well understood. We need significantly increased generation across the board from renewable resourcesthe massive Government investment in that sector has been far-sighted, bold and necessary. We need to develop clean ways of utilising our own carbon resources, such as coal, gas and oil. We need to ramp up research and development into energy-saving techniques and technologies for energy used in industry and transport and domestically. Fundamentally, we need to acknowledge that nuclear generation forms an integral part of the policy solutions that we all require.
Unless we can control our energy production, we cannot control our economy. If we cannot control our economy, we cannot govern, plan, make necessary investments in public services, ensure that we have a stable economy for private investment, or guarantee the security of our nation and society. Recent events in Ukraine have illustrated precisely that, and it is worth noting for a second exactly what kind of policy effect the episode has had throughout the rest of Europe.
Both the German Economics Minister and the Italian Industry Minister told the publication that their countries would now review their nuclear generation policies. The Italian Minister was quoted as saying that nuclear energy was required to safeguard Italy from "energy emergencies". In addition, the EU Energy Commissioner has said:
It is essential that any new EU policy accommodates future nuclear generation in Britain. I trust that the Government will ensure that that is the case, although I am certain that the nuclear case will be made and, I hope, won by our French cousins. It is inconceivable that nuclear generation will not be part of that policy. The fact is that in Britain and elsewhere, security of energy supply is possible only with a significant element of nuclear generation.
Britain is in a position to manufacture nuclear fuel, enable nuclear generation and recycle the fuel used in electricity production for either reuse or sale. The British nuclear industryparticularly in my constituencyprovides this country with a technological and industrial expertise that is the envy of many of our European partners. If we are serious, as I believe we all are, about having an effective and diverse energy policy, we must build on that expertise as
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part of the energy review and take the necessary steps to facilitate a new generation of nuclear power stations in this country.
Mr. Chaytor: If the nuclear renaissance is inevitable, why has no one yet built a new nuclear power station in Britain? If my hon. Friend accepts that the necessary steps to facilitate that have to be taken by the Government, will he say precisely what those necessary steps are and how much subsidy would be involved?
Mr. Reed: I am not aware that any subsidy would be needed. I have spoken with energy generating companies that are keen to invest in nuclear technology and nuclear generation. What they need is a dialogue with the Government about establishing a framework in which they would feel able to do that.
Nuclear energy can provide us with the security that we require, the economic benefits that we desire and the environmental gains that we so desperately need and, pending a decision on future generation, it can do all that in a relatively short period. Only 10 days or so ago, the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor received full certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and, according to the company, it would take only 36 months from the first concrete being poured to fuel being loaded.
What no one has mentioned so far in this debate is the fact that the British nuclear industry employs approximately 40,000 people in this country. Given that west Cumbria is the national centre of nuclear expertise and is, in my opinion, the emerging global nuclear capital, I hope that my constituency is considered as a candidate site for any future nuclear energy generation.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): Although I agree that we should be debating nuclear power today, I do not agree with the Liberal Democrats' conclusions on the subject. I agree with the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr. Reed) that it is most important that we debate nuclear energy and our energy needs now, given the events in Ukraine and Russia.
I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill). His point about Homer Simpson was made in jest, but we should think about the education that we receive on the subject of nuclear energy and ask ourselves where we have learned our facts and figures, whether in the House or prior to our coming here. The education that Britain has received in that difficult subject is tenuous, to say the least. Much of our knowledge is drawn from events such as Chernobyl anddare I say it?from watching cartoons on television such as "The Simpsons", in which we see Homer Simpson walking home with a glowing bar in his back pocket. Those images stay with us, and even though people do not believe that that happens, if such impressions are not corrected it is difficult to know what to believe.
In this debate, differing views have been expressed and statistics have been quoted back and forth across the Chamber, but who is right? The debate that we have to have on energy, including the nuclear question, is fundamental, but it must be conducted in an adult, honest and intelligent manner. I praise the Canadians
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for their approach: they spent two years having an honest debate before deciding on the direction of their energy policy.
Stewart Hosie: Honesty is required, so will the hon. Gentleman concede that he was rather glib when he referred to Chernobyl? Those events were extremely serious. Will he also reflect on the fact that radioactive particles are constantly being found on the foreshore at Dounreayweek after week, month after month, year after year? There are serious lessons to learn about the dangers of waste and of nuclear energy.
Mr. Ellwood: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. What happened at Chernobyl? Late one evening, technicians who worked there were playing around with the system. They had switched off safety devices and there was no secondary back-up system. That does not happen any more. The back-up systems that we have in place ensure that Chernobyl can never happen again. Unfortunately, the problems that occurred there remain with us and people believe that they could be repeated. Comment was made comparing Chernobyl with a Lada, but Ladas have changed as well, as have ships. We still build large ships. We did not stop building them when the Titanic went down; we made improvements to them.
The importance of the debate is fundamental, for two reasons: first, it is accepted that we are damaging our planet; and, secondly, we are running out of fuel. The damage that we are doing to our planet is recognised in all parts of the House and by all generations in the House. CO 2 emissions affect our climate. Previous generations created the problem through ignorance, but we compound it through arrogance by doing so little about it.
Kyoto has achieved much. It is a major step in improving the climate, with 180 countries signing up, but not the United States. I encourage the United States to be included in the next round of talks on climate change. The results of Kyoto have been helpful. If we are successful, 483 million tonnes of emissions will be cut by 2012. However, China, India and the USA combined create 2.7 billion tonnes of CO 2 emissions every year. That puts into perspective the amount of work that remains to be done.
Let us consider our domestic requirements. We require 350 TWh of power to keep Britain going, and that requirement will increase by about 500 TWh. One third of that power is produced from coal and more than a third from gas. In my intervention on the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), I commented on waste. If we are to have an adult debate about our energy needs, let us put into context where the waste is coming from and what we are doing with it. Much of the waste that we create comes from hospitals. High-level waste also comes from military uses, but that is a separate topic from the debate about civil nuclear energy.
Security of supply has been discussed. We have concerns about the fact that we now import coal and gas. We are also concerned that the 14 remaining nuclear power stations are about to be switched off. That means that we require 40 per cent. generating
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capacity that is not even built yet. Many hon. Members have spoken of our gas requirements, which will rise from the current 40 per cent. to 80 per cent. as we become a net importer.
We had a fruitful debate last week on the problems of gas imports from Ukraine and Russia. It is worth mentioning that Russia and Iran are likely to create a gas cartel. The last time a cartel was formed, in the case of OPEC, there was a sudden rise in the cost of oil. There is a real question about security of supply. The European Union's failure to create a common gas market is causing concern. Had the EU created such a market, we would not be experiencing the problems that we face today.
Nuclear energy now provides 22 per cent. of our electricity supply, but all nuclear power stations will be closed by 2023. Some of the arguments advanced by the Liberal Democrats are based on the technology that has been used and the success that Britain has had in building nuclear plantsI think the Minister said that the UK's construction of power stations was not our finest hour. We are one of the few nations to use gas-cooled reactorseveryone else uses water-cooled reactors. Unfortunately, much of the UK's nuclear industry has moved to Canada and other parts of the world. There were delays in the licensing and approval for nuclear power plants; there were no incentives to get those jobs completed; and the plants were often redesigned as they were constructed. For example, it took 20 years to get a spark out of Dungeness, and it took six years to obtain planning permission for Sizewell B, the last reactor to be built.
We have heard nothing from the Liberal Democrats about new technology. Canada has the third-generation CANDU system, which, unlike UK reactors, allows nuclear power plants to continue running while the rods are changed. South Africa is considering the new pebble-bed reactor system, which is much safer than existing systems and uses helium instead of water. Those systems cost about £1 billion each, which sounds like an awful lot of money, but it is the same price as an oil rig or about double the cost of a gas-cooled plant.
As I have said, I want to see the Minister produce not only a review, but the answers. What is the next step forward? Although I have not made up my mind, I have tried to correct others and have done my best to learn about the subject. I fear that many hon. Members have more passion than knowledge about the issues, which is dangerous.
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