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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates
|Prepared 17th November 2010
Publications on the internet
General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates
Draft Justification Decision
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Mark Etherton, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Draft Justification Decision (Generation of Electricity by the AP1000 Nuclear Reactor) Regulations 2010
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change laid the two instruments before the House on 18 October. They contain his decisions, as the justifying authority under the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004, that the generation of electricity from two nuclear reactor designs—Westinghouse’s AP1000 and Areva’s EPR—is justified. The decisions are important, and I should like to explain their nature and significance. Copies of documents setting out detailed reasons for supporting the decisions were deposited in the Library of the House on 18 October.
Regulatory justification is derived from the recommendations of the ICRP—the International Commission on Radiological Protection—which are used around the world as the basis for radiological protection. I am aware that some would like us to abandon the ICRP system, but the Government, along with others around the world, are satisfied that it is the best way to ensure effective radiological protection. The ICRP’s recommendations form the basis of the European basic safety standards directive, which requires member states to ensure that all new classes or types of practice resulting in exposure to ionising radiation, in advance of them being adopted or approved, are justified by their economic, social or other benefits in relation to the health detriment that they might cause.
The requirements were implemented into UK law by the 2004 regulations, which provide that a decision on whether to justify a nuclear practice should be taken by the justifying authority—in this case, the relevant Secretary of State. As such, regulatory justification is one of the steps that the Government are committed to take to facilitate new nuclear power in this country. Regulatory justification is an initial, high-level process. It is the first step in the radiological protection regime, and it is made on a generic basic, not a site-specific one.
Following a regulatory justification decision, there are further processes to follow involving more detailed examinations by regulators of reactor designs and the impact on specific sites of proposals to build nuclear power stations. For example, the ICRP recommendations and the basic safety standards directive also apply the principles of optimisation and dose limitation—separately and after the regulatory justification process. A justification decision does not mean that the reactor design and the nuclear power station will pass through the further processes successfully. The optimisation of protection is a requirement that all exposures will be kept as low as reasonably achievable, taking into account social and economic factors, while dose limitation is the principle that the total dose to any individual from regulated sources in planned exposure situations—other than the medical exposure of patients—should not exceed the appropriate recommended limits.
A class or type of practice must be justified before it is first adopted or approved, so decisions are made in advance of full information on the benefits and detriments of the practice that might emerge from operational experience. The decisions therefore seek to identify the potential detriment from the reactor designs by making informed assumptions based on the best information available, including information arising from the operational experience of similar classes or types of practice, and the expert opinion of regulators and others.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): In light of the Minister’s reference to experience elsewhere, what part did consideration of the recent German KiKK—Kinderkrebs um Kernkraftwerke—study into infant leukaemia risk play in the justification?
Charles Hendry: I will come on to that in just one moment. Perhaps my hon. Friend will hear out the rest of my opening speech so that we can clarify some of the issues now. He can make further comments in due course, if that would be helpful.
If new and important evidence about the efficacy or consequences of the class or type of practice comes to light, the 2004 regulations allow the Secretary of State to reassess any regulatory justification decision.
The decisions follow three public consultations by my Department. There was first a consultation on a proposed process for regulatory justification applications and decisions. Secondly, there was a consultation on an application from the Nuclear Industry Association. Finally, the Department published a third consultation on proposed decisions that two reactor designs—Westinghouse’s AP1000 and Areva’s EPR— should be justified. It was decided that priority should be given to those two designs because they were the most likely to be built in the UK in the near future.
That consultation ended earlier this year and, after considering the responses, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change announced on 18 October his decision that the two designs were justified. I shall now outline our reasons for making those decisions.
Having considered the benefits and detriments, we see a clear need for the generation of electricity by the AP1000 and EPR because of the contribution that they can make to securing the UK’s energy supplies, as well as to helping the UK to decarbonise and meet legal
The AP1000 and EPR will be able to produce large quantities of electricity over an extended period, thus making a significant contribution to electricity supply. Nuclear power has long been our most significant source of low-carbon energy and it can continue to contribute to our energy mix.
It will be for companies to fund and build any new nuclear power stations and to determine whether they provide sufficiently attractive returns. Nuclear power is economically competitive with other forms of generating technology, and developments in the UK market have made it clear that energy companies are investing significantly in the prospect of new nuclear power stations.
We are confident that there will be economic benefits for the UK from new nuclear power stations. Beyond direct investment and employment, we can benefit through the development of a globally competitive nuclear supply chain and an improvement in the quality of the UK’s skilled work force. Furthermore, we believe that if nuclear power stations were not part of the UK’s future energy mix, the UK would face significantly higher costs in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Against those benefits, there is the potential for detriment, but the radiation to which members of the public would be exposed due to new nuclear power stations, as a proportion of the overall radiation to which they are exposed from all sources, including medical procedures and background radiation, would be very small. The safety features of the designs and the regulatory regime, which sets limits on the release of radiation and monitors compliance, will ensure that emissions will be minimised. The risk of health detriment is therefore very low.
In accordance with ICRP recommendations, the decisions apply to the operation and decommissioning of new nuclear power stations, as well as to the management and disposal of radioactive waste that they will produce. In making our decisions, we are therefore satisfied that the regulatory regime will limit health detriment from waste management and disposal, that the interim storage of waste can be carried out in a way that causes a very low level of health detriment, and that a robust process is in place to identify a site for a geological disposal facility and to build it. We also concluded that the possible environmental detriments arising from new nuclear power stations are likely to be avoided or adequately mitigated by the licensing and planning regime.
We considered the risk of detriments arising from an accident or terrorist incident. Such possible detriments already exist, and the risk of such incidents should be seen in the context of the regulatory regime, which is intended to prevent accidents and protect against terrorist attack. We are confident in the regulatory regimes for the safety and security of civil nuclear installations and materials in the UK and consider that the likelihood of an accident or other incident giving rise to a release of radioactive material is very small. We have also carefully considered international experience and evidence, to address the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham, and we believe that the approach that we have taken in the United Kingdom to examine
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has therefore concluded that the significant potential benefits outweigh the potential detriments, and that the generation of electricity by the AP1000 and EPR should be justified.
The rationale behind the justification has been well laid out, in both the Minister’s opening remarks and the two documents—my compliments to his team. Having said that, the Minister would not expect me simply to stand up and say, “Excellent, well done. Here’s a pat on the back and now let’s go home.” I want to raise a number of issues in a spirit of genuine inquiry.
The first aspect, and perhaps the most critical, is the question of time scale and milestones. With the planning and the design, there has already been a delay in bringing us to this initial stage of the process, as the Minister rightly describes it. We also had a six-month delay after the election, and so we are now 18 months behind. There is therefore a key question: we were talking about rolling out the new-build nuclear facilities by 2017-18, but is that still feasible?
To go into more detail, if we look back at the 2007 Department of Trade and Industry document on the role of nuclear power in a low-carbon economy and the consultations on the proposed processes for justification, it was projected that the justification decision would be published in spring 2009. That date was missed for a number of reasons, including delays in planning permission, construction processes and design. As the Minister knows, many of those things can be brought together and done in parallel, so in some ways that is not a problem. However, other things can be done only in sequence, including justification. It would not be possible to put forward a proposal for new build if the proposed reactor at the heart of the build had not gone through the justification process, and that is where we are now. Some 18 months on, we are in the situation of not an overlapping or sequential delay, but an absolute delay. Is the Minister confident that we can still hit the deadlines so that we can give certainty to the industry and also contribute to energy security?
We note that the Department’s nuclear power generation cost-benefit analysis of 2006 suggested that the pre-development period would be eight years. Presumably, therefore, a build period of six years will considerably overlap with that. If my reading is correct, that means that the suggested date by which the first plant will be on line—as the Secretary of State recently confirmed in a statement—will now slip beyond 2018. That statement seems to be contradicted in the explanatory notes, however, which state:
I want to hear from the Minister whether we are confident that we will hit that deadline, even given the delay that we have had. Some of that delay was understandable because of the election, but the 2017 date would mean that there would be less than two years’ further planning and a maximum build time of five years.
I welcome the fact that we are discussing the regulations because this is our first opportunity in this Parliament to debate the issue, including the process to move from this initial stage to filling the energy gap with new nuclear build. Will the Minister outline what the next steps will be towards hitting that deadline, including in relation to market reform? Are there already published milestones and a timetable, or will he have to make adjustments based on where we are today? Will we have the new build on time or will it slip? As the Minister knows, the more we slip, the more the gap emerges, so this point is critical.
What recent discussions has the Minister held with the devolved Administrations about the issue? There were discussions during the consultation, but have issues emerged more recently and have any concerns been raised? Is there confidence about this matter, because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have a stake in it? My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) clearly has a personal stake in the new generation. Perhaps the Minister will update the Committee on where he is with the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
One aspect of the explanatory notes, which is also in the Nuclear Industry Association’s briefing, is the cradle-to-grave assessment involved in the justification—all the way from the extraction and mining of uranium to disposal. Will the Minister confirm that that has happened? Does the human rights statement in the explanatory notes take account of a cradle-to-grave assessment on the sourcing and disposal of uranium and by-products of the nuclear industry in terms of both our domestic and international imperatives?
I should like to raise a key point, although not in political way. I mentioned this on the Floor of the House the other day, but Sheffield Forgemasters is not just a needle with which we can keep chivvying the Government. It is critical, and especially relevant to the two designs that we are considering today, because our understanding was that Sheffield Forgemasters loan could have been key, because it could have not only helped the development of the reactors in the UK, but allowed the company to lead as a global export player. We also understand clearly—I am sure that the Minister will contradict me if I am wrong—that there is a real problem with the supply of the type of unit relevant to this case. Sheffield Forgemasters required the loan to build a 15,000-tonne press. That was the equipment that would make pressure vessels, which are a critical piece of kit at the centre of the new-build nuclear facilities. The Guardian says that the waiting list for pressure vessels means that EDF’s plan to build at least one nuclear power plant in the UK by 2017 will be unattainable. If that is wrong, the Minister can tell me, but who will be providing the equipment if Sheffield Forgemasters cannot? We understand that one other company worldwide can provide it and that there is a huge waiting list. As China develops its capacity massively and Nordic and
“the justification decisions do not extend to the use of mixed oxide fuel in the reactors or the reprocessing of spent fuel. This is because as part of the consideration of the practices the Secretary of State has not looked at particular issues arising from the creation, use and disposal of mixed oxide fuel—
it. What is the rationale behind that? It might be that the work on that has not been done—that is what it looks like—but that could limit the scope of the reactors, unless there is a proposal to rejustify for a wider fuel base at a later date. Perhaps that is in the Minister’s mind, but if so, what will it do to the timetable? The decision might be connected to the fact that the EPR and the AP1000 are both untested designs. If that is so, it would be good to know.
Let me turn to the two near-identical documents published in October, which are well written, as I said, from which a number of points emerge. Interestingly, paragraph 1.46 of the document relating to Westinghouse Electric Company and the AP1000 says, on environmental detriment:
That was an issue close to my heart in my previous role as an Environment Minister. What comes after the IPC, and what will it mean for that power? The document says as clear as day—the document on the EPR design makes exactly the same point—that the IPC can attach conditions. What will happen when the IPC disappears, dissolves or is merged into something else? We know that many nuclear installations, welcomed as they are by communities that have previously had them, are in sensitive environmental areas, which creates issues about biodiversity and ecological sustainability. On that basis, what will come after the IPC? Has the Minister thought this through? I am sure that he has, but will he let us know?
“The examination of an application for new nuclear development and the decisions as to whether or not to grant development consent will be taken in consultation with the Environment Agency and other regulatory bodies (including the Department for Transport, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security).”
Does that include the Marine Management Organisation? The Environment Agency and other organisations have always assessed the risk of irradiated material leaking into the sea from Sellafield and other installations. The MMO, which is based in Newcastle and has been on the statute book since last year, is the supreme marine management and planning organisation. Will that be one of the organisations consulted?
The Minister will be glad to hear that I have only a couple more points to make. Because this is the first such debate that we have been able to have in this Parliament, it is useful, without reiterating all the arguments, to say that Greenpeace is on a different page. However, I think that this would be a good opportunity for him to respond to some of the detailed concerns articulated by Greenpeace in its submission to the Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments. As this might be our only debate on the subject for a while, will he respond to them in some way?
Will the Minister also update us on the office for nuclear regulation? The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee noted that it was intended to function as a sector-specific regulator for the nuclear industry, with additional responsibilities for the transport of radioactive material by road, rail and waterways. However, the relevant provisions were not laid before the election, and I understand that the current Government have confirmed that they are considering future arrangements. What will those arrangements be, because they are critical to the justifications before us?
The hon. Member for Chippenham mentioned health issues and radiation. I turn the Minister’s attention to reports within the last couple days suggesting that there might be a delay in the Health and Safety Executive’s final sign-off of the designs. He might also want to respond to Professor Thomas’s report, which has been widely reported in the past few days. I cannot imagine that the Minister will give huge credence to the description of the EPR nuclear reactor design as being in crisis globally, but we are told of delays on installation, problems with construction and so on.
A decision was expected on whether to issue a design acceptance certificate for the Westinghouse AP1000 and the European pressurised water reactor by June 2011. However, we now understand that the regulator is saying:
Finally, Tony Ward, the head of power and utilities for Ernst and Young, noted in the Financial Times—not a source that I read every day, because it is far too clever, intelligent and complex for me—the following:
“A dose of pragmatism is beginning to emerge. We are beginning to see that for those countries that already have a nuclear base, the best use is to extend the life of the current plant. Governments are being more realistic, given their finite investment resources.”
I have posed some critical questions, and I close by asking the Minister whether he is confident in the time scale. Is he confident that his undoubted ambition for nuclear build in this country, and for us to be global export leader, is shared unanimously and without hesitation among his Front-Bench colleagues?
Duncan Hames: I am grateful, Mr Chope, for the opportunity to speak to this statutory instrument and for the Minister’s invitation to seek clarification on a number of points. It is in a genuine spirit of inquiry, which the hon. Member for Ogmore described, that I wish to continue the discussion.
I mentioned earlier a study that had been commissioned by the German Government—a proper study—whose results are worthy of consideration when the Government are making a decision about the justification of the benefits, as opposed to health detriments, of any such facility. The report observed a 60% increase in childhood cancers in areas alongside the nuclear power stations in Germany compared with other parts of the country. Infant leukaemia increased by a factor of 2.2.
Last year, the UK Department of Health requested the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment to consider the implications of that report for health in the UK. As I understand it, the committee’s report is not due to be published until next February, but I would be interested to know whether a draft of that report formed part of the Secretary of State’s research when deciding that such facilities were justified. If it did not, will the Minister tell us what procedures could follow if our own Government’s commissioned report raised concerns early next year about the facilities?
In the Minister’s assessment, he made a distinction between environmental detriment, which he described as potential, and health detriment, which he described as being of a low level. Given the Secretary of State’s identification and the Minister’s description of a low level of health detriment, it would be helpful to the scrutiny of the decision today if the Minister could, in the interest of transparency, tell us more about what the health detriment was considered to be.
Finally, it is worth considering that, understandably at this stage, many aspects of the proposals in respect of a new generation of nuclear power have yet to be finalised. One such aspect that concerns many people relates to the disposal of radioactive waste. The long-term solution is intended to be geological, but the Department’s papers refer to interim storage arrangements and a requirement that they be safe, secure and environmentally acceptable. It would be helpful if the Minister outlined what interim arrangements would meet that requirement, and how long they are expected to last.
Charles Hendry: I am grateful for those two contributions. May I formally welcome the hon. Member for Ogmore to his role? He has taken a great interest in many of the issues under discussion in his past ministerial life, and I welcome the constructive way in which he has engaged in the process. I will seek to be as clear as possible in my response, because it is of great importance that we maintain cross-party support for new nuclear.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the 2017-18 time scale is still achievable. We believe that it is. We recognise that there have been some delays beyond our control and that good progress is being made in other areas. However, a number of aspects are all going on at once, so the process does not have to be sequential; certain work streams will happen simultaneously.
We have had to re-consult on the national policy statements. We looked at the responses to the initial consultation and believed that the sustainability appraisal had not been done properly. It was therefore appropriate to re-consult on the overarching national policy statement, and as the other statements followed on from that, it was appropriate to re-consult formally on all of them, too. We were disappointed to have had to do that, but we are certain that it was the right approach to achieve the most robust regime possible.
The generic design assessment programme is moving ahead. We understand from the HSE and its nuclear installations inspectorate that it expects to complete it next June. It has made significant progress, having received answers to the questions that it posed to the two reactor companies, and remains confident that it can be done on that time scale.
We are where we would hope to be in relation to some of the other major work streams, given the delays on the national policy statement. However, the biggest part of the work is probably still to come: the process of electricity market reform, upon which the Government will consult shortly. It includes the issue of a carbon floor price or carbon tax and considers other measures necessary to stimulate investment in low-carbon technologies, which will be fundamental to any decisions to invest in new nuclear in the United Kingdom.
On a further point of clarification, one of the great selling points that the hon. Gentleman’s Government put in place was a road map, so that everybody knows what should be done by which month to keep us on target. That is on the website, and we are absolutely committed to maintaining it. Based on our feedback and the latest information, we believe that, while challenging, it is still possible to deliver for 2017-18.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I genuinely welcome the Minister’s reassurance. The HSE says that it is likely to introduce an interim DAC in June 2011, rather than the full sign-off. If that is correct, will it have any implications for the time scale?
Charles Hendry: It depends on its nature. Our preference is for everything to be agreed, but if some minor areas that are in no way fundamental to the design of the reactor have not been concluded by June, we would still expect that to give the certainty and comfort to the developers to go ahead. However, from our latest contact with the NII, we believe that it is still working towards a completion in June.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the contact with the devolved Administrations. They have been involved and consulted throughout the process. We recognise that the current regime in Scotland makes the consideration of nuclear new build in Scotland unlikely. Similarly, it is not being looked at for Northern Ireland. Energy is a retained matter in our relations with Wales. However, under the respect agenda, it is important that we include the devolved Administrations in our thinking as openly as we can.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the cradle-to-grave approach in terms of the procedures and the costs. That is integral to our thinking and the system put in place by the previous Administration has been continued.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I very much welcome that statement. For some time, we were worried that there was either a difference of opinion among Ministers or lack of clarity from them about how we would get new nuclear up and running. Although the recent statement from the Secretary of State said that artificial market support would be avoided, it also clearly said that those incentives or market mechanisms that might be available for other technologies—in particular, renewable technologies—could also be applied here. His estimation is therefore that that would be sufficient to give investors confidence to bring forward new build.
Charles Hendry: The detail of the electricity market reform proposals will set that out with much greater clarity, but our approach is a recognition that, to invest in low-carbon technologies, people must have a clear understanding of the return that they may get. Nuclear can benefit from anything that is available to other low-carbon technologies, but it cannot have something specifically for nuclear. In that respect, nuclear is not getting a subsidy that is unavailable to other low-carbon technologies.
On Sheffield Forgemasters, the principle that the developers are looking at is how they order ahead. They have orders into the Japanese supply chain to ensure that, when they are building reactors around the world, the necessary elements are available as part of that construction process. Our discussions with both Areva and Westinghouse do not suggest that delays result from constraints on the supply chain, and we are keen to work with them. Westinghouse has made it clear that it has a general approach of buying where it builds, and it tries to provide as much support for the local supply chain as it can. Similarly, EDF held a recent event for the supply chain, with a view to trying to secure as much of the contract and construction work for British companies as possible. Part of its global sell is the partnership that it is developing with major companies such as Rolls-Royce, so there is a real opportunity for British companies in that process.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I thank the Minister for generously giving way again; the first opportunity to debate these regulations is crucial to flesh out some of these issues. Is the door absolutely shut on Sheffield Forgemasters? In Korea and China, such capacity is being developed. It would be a crying shame if, at the point that the Minister takes forward this brave new dawn for new nuclear build in this country, we import the steel technology for it, when we could actually do it here. Earlier in the year, I noted that, after the initial disappointment of the loan decision for Sheffield Forgemasters, some words were put out that gave hope that discussions were still ongoing. Are such discussions happening, perhaps with the Minister or Treasury officials, and is it likely that Sheffield Forgemasters will be part of the new build, not only in the UK—we have time to do it—but for export as well?
Charles Hendry: For clarification, we took the decision after looking across the board at Government spending, the commitments that were made and the commitments that had been inherited from the previous Administration. Our view was that much of it was not wrong or undesirable; it was simply unaffordable. We felt that the Government borrowing money to lend was not good practice in the circumstances.
Discussions are ongoing with Sheffield Forgemasters. It is developing other contracts as part of the nuclear supply chain, but the Government made a firm decision that that loan would not go ahead, because we simply did not believe that it was affordable at this time. To prioritise the work that the Government should be doing, difficult decisions had to be made. As I have said, we did not decide that it was a bad investment decision; we decided it was unaffordable. The decision was no reflection on the excellent work of Sheffield Forgemasters and the technical expertise that it has in the sector; it was a question of overall affordability.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the IPC, the reform process and what would happen with the changes that are going through. We believe that the IPC’s work is extremely important, so the principles are there, but we think that there are better ways of delivering it. The IPC’s back-office functions will be done within the Planning Inspectorate and a team will be dedicated to major infrastructure projects. It will then make a recommendation to the relevant Minister, and the Secretary of State will make the determination. The process will continue, but we believe that it will have greater democratic and parliamentary accountability and scrutiny as a result of our changes and that it will end up as a more robust system. The role that the IPC has referred to in the document will continue under the new guise and structure that we are proposing.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the environmental issues, and they can be taken account of in the national policy statement. He will be aware that we have removed two of the potential approved sites in Cumbria, by issuing a revised national policy statement, because we believed that they should not be considered as appropriate for development given their closeness to the national park. There is continual consultation on such matters, but we believe that that was the right decision to make. We will consult with other bodies—there has been consultation with the MMO. The list in the documentation is not exhaustive but rather an indication of the type of organisations involved. We are keen to consult where appropriate with the different bodies concerned.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the concerns expressed by Greenpeace. I am happy to run through some of the principal concerns and the conclusions that we came to. Greenpeace suggested that we had not identified specific doses of radiation that would be a detriment or quantify a risk. The regulatory regime keeps doses at levels below those related to cancer and equal to a level of risk not detectable among normal background levels of cancer risk. That also answers the final point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham about what we would consider to be detrimental to health. We are looking at whether there would be an extra risk to public health from radiation from the reactors that would be greater than the background level. We have reached the conclusion that the level concerned would be significantly lower than background levels of radiation.
Greenpeace questioned why we are following the ICRP approach and the Health Protection Agency model. We believe that they are the most robust mechanisms for dealing with the matter. They are standards throughout the world, and the ICRP approach is fit for purpose in that respect. Greenpeace also referred to the KiKK report in Germany, and given the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham, I will respond to that in more detail.
We looked carefully at the work done by the KiKK report. We noted that it found a correlation between the distance of a home from the nearest nuclear power station at the time of diagnosis and the risk of a child developing leukaemia before their fifth birthday. However, the report also noted that exposure to ionising radiation in the vicinity of a German nuclear power station was lower by a factor of 1,000 to 100,000 than the exposure to natural background and medical radiation. Therefore, the findings of the study could not be explained in the present state of radio, biological and epidemiological knowledge.
We did not consider that the conclusions of the KiKK study should lead us to question the findings of the report by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment—COMARE—and there is no evidence of unusual aggregations of childhood cancers in populations living near nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom. As my hon. Friend says, COMARE is preparing a further report, and if new evidence comes to light, we have the power to revisit the decisions that we are taking. Based on the best information available to us today, we believe that the work that has been done satisfies us that the link suggested by KiKK is not something that we have been able to duplicate in our own research, or in research carried out independently on our behalf.
Greenpeace also stated that the practice did not look at the waste plan. However, the right to justify the whole practice also includes the waste plan, and we have been looking at that aspect. It also suggested that the decision is final, but, as I have just said, the Secretary of State has the power to revisit the decision should new information come to light.
Charles Hendry: My understanding is that it would not. If I am wrong, I will clarify the matter in writing to the hon. Gentleman and other members of the Committee. The Government have a requirement in law to go through the regulatory justification process. We believe that we have been extremely thorough in doing so, but if further information comes to light, we have power in the legislation to revisit that decision, and that is understood by the industry.
Finally, the hon. Member for Ogmore asked about the shared commitment. Let me reassure him that there absolutely is cohesion in the coalition, and across the Government, about the importance of taking that process forward. At the Liberal Democrat party conference, the Secretary of State spoke very eloquently about his commitment, and his role within the coalition Government, to making new nuclear happen. We are absolutely clear in our approach that that would be without public
Huw Irranca-Davies: I want to remind the Minister about two other issues. Would he briefly turn his attention to the prospects for the ONR and the omission of MOX from the justification? It would be good to deal with those two points in the Committee, and then we can put them to bed.
Charles Hendry: I apologise. I should have picked up on both of those matters. On the ONR, we are looking at the right way forward. We have had discussions with my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions. I think that every new Minister in that Department is always rather surprised to discover that they are looking at child credit, pension credit and nuclear safety. We are looking at the best way to ensure not only that there is a robust, independent mechanism, so that the public at large and everybody else can have confidence in the regulatory approach, but that it enables the regulator to react speedily to the challenges that are there, bearing in mind that the full costs of the regulator are covered by the industry itself. We are looking at the best way forward, and we hope very shortly to be able to provide our final decision on that.
A new MOX plant would be a require a separate regulatory justification procedure. We are giving the justification for particular reactor types and that looks at the process involved in those reactors, but the MOX facility is a separate operation. The assumption is that the companies will go through a process of interim storage and management of their waste on site—a well-established technique and something that we believe can be managed for some decades, based on past experience. At the same time, if there were a desire to increase the MOX work in the United Kingdom, a separate process would be required to carry that forward.
I hope that that has picked up on all the points made in the debate. These are important developments. This is an important legal step in trying to take forward the nuclear renaissance and nuclear new build programme in the United Kingdom, and I hope that the regulations find the support of the Committee.
DRAFT JUSTIFICATION DECISION (GENERATION OF ELECTRICITY BY THE EPR NUCLEAR REACTOR) REGULATIONS 2010
|Prepared 17th November 2010