Civil Nuclear Road Map

Part of Backbench Business – in the House of Commons am 3:26 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development Team Member) 3:26, 22 Chwefror 2024

I will be mindful of that, Mr Deputy Speaker.

It is fair to say that while there are very different opinions on nuclear energy, and indeed on the civil nuclear road map, we can all agree on how important energy is to our future—the future of all nations across the UK—and, indeed, that it is becoming an increasingly important resource across the world. As a member of the SNP, representing the Scottish constituency of Livingston, I am proud that we are an energy-rich nation. We in Scotland are particularly rich in renewable energy, and we want to see those resources made the most of. I do not believe, nor does my party, that nuclear is the way forward.

The effects of climate change and resource competition have demonstrated that access to the amount of energy we need is not a given, and we must act to ensure that we have secure and sustainable energy resources. However, the goal of energy security cannot be achieved by going backwards, which many SNP Members feel is what is happening. It is interesting that even Members in this debate who support nuclear energy are critical of the road map. My hon. Friend Alan Brown, who is not supportive of nuclear energy, made a very pertinent point; he described that road map as a fantasy. That is probably the best and fairest description that could be given.

None the less, Members—particularly those who have constituency interests—raised pertinent and serious issues about cost and delivery throughout the debate. As we have heard, the cost of nuclear energy is staggering. The numbers we have heard in this debate are almost inconceivable: £35 billion for Hinkley Point C, including a £2.3 billion budget increase this year alone, and an eye-watering approximation of £20 billion for Sizewell C’s budget. For some context, the UK Government will spend only £1 billion to increase the availability of hospital beds in NHS England, and only £4.1 billion on England’s new childcare plan—a stark contrast to the cost of nuclear energy.

Every single project run by EDF, the company commissioned to build Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C, has run over budget and between six and 14 years behind schedule. At a time when we face a cost of energy and cost of living crisis, that is not value for money; the plan is not efficient, effective or practical. What is more, those large investments come at the expense of green energy development in the UK. Non-nuclear renewable energy sources are credible options to solve energy instability. Scotland has proven that it can fuel its entire country and more just with wind power—in fact, according to National Grid, Scotland’s full energy mix has been keeping the lights on in England. We are doing our good turn, but the reality is that money invested in nuclear projects is taking away from investment in green energy, particularly in Scotland.

Turning to grid connection, an issue that a number of Members have raised, I recently met with a developer who is trying to develop a solar project in my constituency. I had concerns about how close it was to houses in my constituency; these are new developments, and there are still lots of areas that are being looked at. However, that developer said to me that if the project had been built in the south of England, it would have been half the size—it needed to be twice the size because of the grid connection charges. As we heard from my right hon. Friend Liz Saville Roberts, the grid connection charges and the standing charges in her constituency are absolutely outrageous. The green industrial revolution is the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century, and it will deliver more jobs, cheaper energy and greater economic growth, but this focus on a blank cheque investment in unproven nuclear power is utterly ludicrous.

At the end of the day, we need energy in order for the United Kingdom to function, and fuel is becoming a scarce resource. Action must be taken to resolve that—this much we can all agree on—but the civil nuclear road map does not even solve the problem. In fact, the plan, as we have heard, focuses largely on the great development of small modular reactors, but the proposed 300 MW SMRs appear to be based on the 1,500 MW design that has not actually been built, making the technology in the civil nuclear road map unproven. To have such an important road map and spend so much public money on it, and to have at the heart of it a technology that is unproven just does not make sense.

As if that was not enough, these SMRs are thought to produce up to 30 times more waste than conventional nuclear reactors. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun highlighted, waste is one of our major concerns. We are seeing water pollution across the UK, with sewage being pumped into rivers and seas, particularly on the coasts of England, and now we want to dump nuclear waste in bunkers—or, according to this road map, not actually to have any proper plans, but just to kick the can down the road.

Scotland, and the rest of the UK, needs a Government who will deliver a comprehensive energy strategy that includes jobs and lower bills, and that grows the economy. We deserve a plan that can unleash our full green energy potential, and Scotland’s future growth and green future will come from investment in renewable energy, not nuclear. The UK-wide focus on nuclear energy runs counter to common sense, frankly. We have seen projects—and I know the Minister knows this and, I hope, feels it keenly—that were cancelled, as when I worked in the north-east of Scotland in the energy industry myself, and saw that repeatedly with carbon capture, with the devastation that wreaked on the industry.

Sadly, we cannot trust the UK Conservative Government with our energy policy. At a time when other countries are ramping up investment in green energy, Westminster is showing itself to be incapable of delivering a credible plan. It is clear, as this debate has shown, that the UK Government’s civil nuclear road map does not deliver.