HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 cc1151-2W
Mr. Peter Ainsworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the impact of coastal erosion on the safety of coastally-sited nuclear power stations; and if she will make a statement on the(a) cost and (b) effectiveness of measures being taken in relation to this issue. [152970]

Mr. Timms

I have been asked to reply.

The Health and safety Executive (HSE) license all nuclear power stations under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. Flood risks, which are enhanced by coastal erosion, are one category of external hazards that HSE require to be addressed in safety cases for nuclear plant.

Safety cases are prepared by the plant operator. They are scrutinised and then reviewed periodically (at intervals not greater than 10 years) by HSE. This provides an opportunity to ensure that operators are updating their predictions. The cost of HSE reviewing safety cases is recovered from the industry.

The Office of Science and Technology (OST) is currently performing a major study on the future of flooding and coastal erosion as part of its Foresight programme. The study is looking 30–100 years ahead and is considering the drivers of future risks from flooding and coastal erosion; the magnitude of those risks if existing policies remain unchanged; and possible policy choices which could mitigate future risks.

The project has evaluated future erosion rates and has found that these are likely to increase in many parts of the UK, although the changes will be very location specific, and are likely to be extremely variable. The project has noted that major assets and infrastructure, including certain nuclear power stations, are on stretches of the coast where the increased erosion could be substantial. However the precise change in risk of such coastal assets will be very dependant on the details of the location. Such analysis is beyond the scope of the project. The Foresight project is due to report its findings in April 2004.