Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, provided an oral statement on nuclear power on Monday 4th June 2018. Mr Clark was joined by Business Minister Richard Harrington who is responsible for nuclear power.
What was said
Nuclear power has a role to play in the UK’s low carbon future. It currently provides 20% of UK electricity needs. It must continue to provide secure and reliable base-load power at the least cost.
Discussions are on-going regarding a direct investment in the £12bn Wylfa nuclear plant in Wales, which would be made alongside the Japanese Government and Hitachi. Mr Clark reiterated that future nuclear projects would need to be financed by the private sector, while underlining Government support of the sector. Government has engaged with Industry to set out a sector deal for nuclear, which would include proposals to reduce the capital cost of new plants while investing in new forms of technology. The sector deal will be published shortly.
Shadow Secretary of State for BEIS response
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said there is cross-party consensus for the continued role of nuclear within the UK’s energy mix. She questioned the “lack of transparency and Parliamentary scrutiny” of the Government’s deal with Hitachi thus far and called on the Secretary of State to respond to her request for information. She urged Mr Clark to urgently meet with the Welsh Government and develop a deal for the Tidal Lagoon Power project.
The debate prompted questions from across the House, most notably from: Conservative MP and former energy secretary Sir Michael Fallon; Chair of the BEIS Select Committee and Labour MP Rachel Reeves; Conservative MP Stephen Crabb; former energy secretary and LibDem MP Sir Edward Davey; Green Party MP Caroline Lucas; Conservative MP John Whittingdale; and Conservative MP and Backbench Business Committee member Nigel Mills. The debate included mention of the following topics:
- UK electricity needs;
- Low-carbon economy;
- Hinkley Point C;
- Wylfa Newydd power station;
- Sizewell C;
- Future nuclear power plants.
Ms Reeves asked what assurances have been provided to Hitachi regarding the UK’s future relationship with Euratom, our nuclear cooperation agreements more generally, and the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s ability to recruit safety inspectors. Mr Clark responded that the desire for the greatest possible continuity of existing arrangements is known to Hitachi and mutually beneficial.
Mr Crabb asked Mr Clark what discussions are taking place with the Welsh Government to ensure that opportunities are maximised for the Welsh business supply chain. Mr Clark responded that BEIS is working closely with the Welsh Government to ensure that the Wylfa nuclear plant benefits people across Wales and the UK.
Sir Edward Davey highlighted recent dramatic investments in large-scale renewable power and advances to storage technology, and how these developments affect the decision on the Wylfa plant. Mr Clark responded that the Government supports a diversified energy supply of which nuclear is a very important part.
Ms Lucas clarified that there is not cross-party support on nuclear power and asked why the Business Secretary does not invest the money instead in renewables, a sector where investment is at an all-time low. Mr Clark responded that the UK is leading the world in offshore wind development. In addition he said that investment in new nuclear is strategic and beneficial to job creation, particular in coastal towns.
What this means
The Government’s decision to directly invest into the Wylfa nuclear plant is strategic and necessary. The nuclear industry will remain a vital UK energy source for the foreseeable future, and remain a significant source of regional job creation. While assuming increased adoption of renewables and advancements in storage technology, the UK’s energy mix needs to remain diversified for at least the next two generations, in order that the UK can manage energy costs (both in terms of deployment and on behalf of consumers), retain its security of supply and meet its climate targets. Government needs to continue investing in new technologies and projects that will economically benefit the country and consumers. Further announcements and policy clarity would be welcome by businesses operating within these sectors.
The full transcript can be found here – https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons.
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