HC Deb 09 May 1988 vol 133 c11
15. Mr. John Garrett

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received about the share of the costs of maintaining and decommissioning Magnox reactors to be borne by the privatised electricity supply industry.

Mr. Michael Spicer

After privatisation, nuclear power station operators will continue to be required to make appropriate financial provision for decommissioning and other long-term liabilities.

Mr. Garrett

Given the recent report on the very high cost of maintaining safety at Bradwell for the next four years, the likely costs of maintaining safety and maintenance at the other 10 Magnox stations and decommissioning costs of £250 million to £300 million each, who will be expected to pay for the deteriorating safety standards and decommissioning? As those stations are likely to have to be encased in concrete for 100 years, should not the Department make a statement on this issue as soon as possible?

Mr. Spicer

First, I deny that there is any question of deteriorating safety standards. The British nuclear industry has had a tremendous track record for safety, and we mean to keep it that way.

Secondly, all forms of energy safety have costs in terms of protection of the environment. Noisy and obtrusive windmills, potential radiological hazards from nuclear power, sulphur emissions from coal, which we have been discussing, or, indeed, disruption to bird life from estuarial barrages involve costs in protecting the environment. In that sense, there is nothing special about the nuclear industry. I repeat that, with privatisation, proper provision will be made for those costs in the accounts.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

The Minister will be aware that the advisory committee on the safety of nuclear installations has recommended that there should be a 50 per cent. increase in the number of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate personnel working on decommissioning. Will he tell the House how many are currently working on decommissioning and whether he will accept the advice to increase the numbers?

Mr. Spicer

I cannot give the precise number of those within the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate who are working on decommissioning, but I shall write to the hon. Gentleman if that figure is available. However, we are up to the complement of 120 inspectors, the target that we had set for 1 April, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government will ensure that there is an adequate number of inspectors for the future requirements of the NII.