HC Deb 27 February 1989 vol 148 c4
5. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what will be the cost for the Central Electricity Generating Board to comply with the European Community directives on emissions of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Michael Spicer)

The CEGB has estimated that the cost of meeting its obligations under the EC directive on the reductions of sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions from large combustion plant will be about £2 billion at 1988 prices. There is at present no EC directive governing emissions of carbon dioxide.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware of the excellent report in the Spectator recently orating that human casualties from direct and indirect coal pollution in the United Kingdom are probably about 1,700 per year and that in terms of its devastating environmental effect coal power is much more harmful and expensive than nuclear power?

Mr. Spicer

There is no known way of making electricity which does not have a considerable environmental impact. My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to some of the environmentally harmful and in some cases disastrous impacts of coal production. For that reason, we are engaged in a massive cleaning up of coal-fired production to reduce sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) told us last week that a dose of germs was good for for us. Why has she changed her mind about sulphur emissions?

Mr. Spicer

My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) is right on this issue as she is on so many others—especially in terms of the last part of her question, to which I did not address myself. It is true, of course, that nuclear power contributes considerably towards a cleaner environment.

Dr. Michael Clark

Whatever the cost in money terms, is my hon. Friend aware of the cost in terms of despoiling the countryside by taking limestone to use as the active ingredient in the FGD process? Is that not, therefore, another instance of nuclear energy being cleaner, safer and environmentally more attractive?

Mr. Spicer

About 2 per cent. of limestone production will be used for the entire retrofit programme. My hon. Friend is right to say that there are great benefits to be had from nuclear power. That is one of the reasons why we are determined to include it in the range of options for the production of electricity.