HC Deb 10 December 1962 vol 669 cc2-4
1. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Power, in view of the fact that the seven nuclear power stations being commissioned between 1962 and 1966 are unlikely to generate electricity as economically as the conventional stations commissioned in the same period, how much of the £500 million to be spent on nuclear stations could have been saved if conventional stations had been built instead.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)

To provide the same conventional generating capacity would cost about £360 million less. The capital cost of the nuclear stations includes the cost of the first charge of fuel.

Mr. Digby

As there is a very considerable discrepancy in the two capital charges, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is convinced that the "know-how" obtained from operating these seven nuclear stations is worth while, bearing in mind that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is not persuaded that there would be much advantage to be gained from the "know-how" of operating a nuclear reactor in ships?

Mr. Wood

We believe that, with the experience gained from building nuclear power stations, the cost of generating electricity by nuclear and conventional means is likely to break even in about seven or eight years' time. That would certainly not have been possible if we had not built a succession of nuclear stations. Therefore, I think one must balance the extra cost of generation which we are incurring because of this programme against the possibility that the generation of electricity after 1970 will be cheaper.

Sir H. Harrison

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the nuclear power station which is to be built at Sizewell in my constituency will have many advantages as a result of what has been learned in the construction and operation of those already built?

Mr. Wood

Certainly. The capital cost of the power station to be built in my hon. and gallant Friend's constituency, which will be commissioned in about three years, is considerably lower per kilowatt than that of the first stations at Berkeley and Bradwell.

Mr. Warbey

Does the Minister's reply to the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Dorset. West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) mean that the calculation of break-even point is now different? Earlier this year, he told me that break-even point would come in 1967, that is, in only five years. Will he bear in mind, as I asked him to do on that occasion, that if such ridiculously high rates of interest were not charged on the capital cost we should reach break-even point on the station now being built?

Mr. Wood

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask a Question about interest, I shall do my best to answer it again for him. I did say in an Answer I gave a month or two ago that break-even point was likely to be reached in about 1970.

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