National Grid: Capacity DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton WaldristMain Page: Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Conservative - Life peer)
I thank the Minister for that Answer. According to the climate change committee, a quadrupling of low-carbon power generation will be required if we are to meet the 2050 target for decarbonising the economy, and a very substantial part of the power will come from nuclear. Do Her Majesty’s Government still believe that the construction of nuclear power stations can be led and financed by private consortia, or do they now conceive that, as in the case of the first generation of nuclear power stations, they must be financed preponderantly, if not entirely, by public funds? The best native technology for nuclear power generation is the Rolls-Royce project to develop a small modular nuclear reactor. Do Her Majesty’s Government have plans to increase their very limited financial support for this enterprise?
My Lords, I am a strong supporter of the need to develop and deploy small modular nuclear reactors, which should be designed and built in the United Kingdom. However, we also need some large nuclear power stations. Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B will both close in 2022, and time is running out. Nuclear is crucial for the provision of round-the-clock, weather-independent, low-carbon electricity as the demand for electricity soars. The building and commissioning of Sizewell C is now a matter of urgency; we need to proceed, but with minimal and reducing Chinese involvement. How many large nuclear power stations does the current energy policy plan for the UK? Bearing in mind the risks of Chinese involvement, can the Minister confirm that we will not proceed with Bradwell B—the Chinese reactor—but instead revive Japanese options such as Wylfa in Anglesey?
Can I ask the Minister a little more about the timings for when small modular reactors, advanced modular reactors and fusion may come on stream? Is there a sufficient commercial time window for generation III before it gets overtaken by the advanced modular reactors if it is not actually up and running until 2030, which is later than some projections for other countries?
My Lords, I declare my interests as in the register. The energy White Paper commits to opening the generic design assessment to SMR technologies this year. Can the Minister say how many GDA slots will be available—by that I mean how many SMR designs will be able to be supported through GDA—and at what point in the year will SMR GDA open?
SMRs have the potential to help reach the UK’s net zero targets. How many SMRs are typically needed to be operational by 2050 to make a meaningful contribution to net zero? What are the cost savings, as well as UK job creations, of SMRs and current nuclear reactors?
My Lords, the energy White Paper detailed many areas that will require legislation in order for them to go ahead. For example, to ensure that the grid has adequate capacity for the 40 gigawatts of wind power that the Prime Minister has promised by 2030, work needs to begin soon. Can the Minister say when an energy Bill will be before us?
I draw the House’s attention to my register of interests. The UK Government are committed to a gigawatt-scale nuclear future, but there are now some 72 SMRs in 18 countries. What can we learn from the work that is being done elsewhere, and how can we facilitate the exchange to ensure that we are benefiting from the pace of the fastest in the moving camel train?
My Lords, will increased electricity demand require a national grid to place greater reliance on existing submarine power supplies from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and/or southern Ireland? What impact on cost arises following the UK’s departure from the European Union? Will this lead to reconsideration of the future interconnector links planned with Norway and Denmark?