Civil Nuclear Road Map

Part of Backbench Business – in the House of Commons am 3:12 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Attorney General) 3:12, 22 Chwefror 2024

We have already had mention of the significance of net zero. We know that, alongside that, the demand for electricity will increase exponentially. We know, too, that energy security not just for the United Kingdom, but for the supplies of electricity that we currently receive from European countries—or the prices that they will be prepared to pay for electricity and energy—will affect what we produce here. Ireland, to the west of the United Kingdom and, very significantly, to the west of Wales, is also going through the same thought processes about its needs for electricity.

The all-party parliamentary group on nuclear energy paid a visit to Finland. Alongside the great significance of employment, which is in no way insignificant in any of our constituencies—least of all in one such as Dwyfor Meirionnydd, which is one of the lowest-paid constituencies in the UK—there are other socioeconomic drivers, which could be part of this programme and which are implicit in the road map. One of those drivers, which we have not considered in sufficient depth, is the cost of electricity in the United Kingdom.

Again, I speak for my constituency when I say that we, alongside Merseyside, pay among the highest standing charges—if not the highest standing charges—in the UK. Yet we have a tradition of generating electricity. I can think of a hydro production facility in Tanygrisiau, which is producing and feeding into the grid and goes over some of the poorest-built housing that we know of in my constituency, and certainly among the poorest-built housing in western Europe. There is a deep anomaly here. We know how much energy poverty is hitting our communities. We must be looking in future not just at the boon that comes with employment, but at the boon that comes from generating electricity. In Finland, for example, large-scale power stations pay in to real estate taxes. They pay so much that everyone else pays less. In France, people pay less for electricity when they are in the environs of a generating station. These are things that we need to consider, because as things stand we are dealing with inequality and people suffering from power poverty.

Like Damian Collins, I want to speak about the decommissioned power station in my constituency, but first I welcome the announcement on Wylfa. It is the policy of my party, Plaid Cymru, to support development at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd, although not at any more sites in Wales. I previously worked in further education. We saw expectations and hopes raised and then dashed in communities, which is of course what has happened at Wylfa in the past. I urge the Government to ensure that what is proposed is robust, resilient and sustainable, and that the development is brought forward. I remember a programme of apprentices who had to finish their apprenticeships elsewhere because they were no longer able to do so at Wylfa. That is very damaging. There is immense potential, but this must not be just a political boon in the run-up to a general election. These schemes matter immensely to our communities, and must not be handled lightly.

Trawsfynydd, just like Dungeness, is a site that did not find its way on to the 2011 list, for reasons that were perfectly understandable at the time, but I would strongly argue that it should be under consideration in the here and now. Why? First, I will namecheck a constituent, Rory Trappe, who, when he worked at Trawsfynydd—he was also the Prospect union rep—almost single-handedly got Trawsfynydd mentioned in the Financial Times and elsewhere as the first site for which an SMR was being considered. That raised people’s hopes in my constituency. As I mentioned, the difference that would make to salaries in an area such as Meirionnydd in Gwynedd is immense. It has been part of the Ambition North Wales growth deal as well. Public money has been allocated to Trawsfynydd, but there is now a question mark hanging over that funding.

Another advantage of the site is that we have grid connectivity. I know that for some other sites that will be a question; there will be a cost, public controversy, and issues over pylons, but at Trawsfynydd, grid connectivity exists. The site is entirely in public ownership. There is a question about the best use of public money. Trawsfynydd was not on the 2011 list because it was on a lake, rather than on the sea. It was recognised then that the site was not sufficiently supplied with water for large-scale development in the future. That comes back to an argument that I raised in my intervention: if SMRs are to be shown to be suitable on sites other than conventional sites, the Government should look at how they can show that on the ground. Again, that was one of Trawsfynydd’s original positive points.

Alongside that, the Welsh Government have invested Cwmni Egino as a development company for the site. That appears to have been disregarded in the criteria. I am sure that the criteria for GBN were very worth while, but that factor, which was unique to Wales, was not considered. I strongly urge that it now be considered. Finally, there is a mix for the area. We have a hydro-generation scheme at Maentwrog, so old that it existed even before the national grid. We also have a company called Ynni Twrog with a local scheme for energy and a scheme for community energy. It wants to engage with the profits generated from Maentwrog. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss that further, and everything else that I have raised, with the Minister.

Trawsfynydd ceased to generate over 30 years ago. The fear is about what is being proposed now. I will be told that Trawsfynydd is not off the list, and I know that other sorts of technologies will be mentioned, but they are 30 years away. That is 60 years without any generation at a publicly owned site. That is more than a professional lifetime. This is a waste of a resource. We are talking about something that would make an immense difference to the area, and to north-west Wales as a whole. I would like to know what the Minister proposes for the site. Is there a possibility of an SMR? If the Minister proposes an alternative technology, what is it? How realistic is that? Are we talking about medical isotopes as well, because that has been mooted? I have mooted it, because there is a security question over their supply. I reiterate that this is a waste of a public resource. Just like at Dungeness, we have so much that we could be making better use of. I urge the Minister to consider how best to do that.