House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology Inquiry on Nuclear Follow-Up
TUESDAY 10 DECEMBER 2013
Witness: Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP
Extract from the transcript:
(To the witness Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP)
Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan (Past Chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association): “Minister, the two issues of research and the siting of this facility raise a problem: how far do Government assume leadership and a sense of national priority, and do they leave it to the research community to put forward bids for money or, in this instance, the identification of the site? It is a national priority and it is something that, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision on.
We hoped that, under the old system, a decision would be made, but it seems that the interests of bed and breakfast providers in other parts of England were of greater significance than finding a bed for nuclear waste.
I feel that we can have any number of consultations, but the buck will stop with you.
In political fairness, as an opponent to you, I will say your predecessors, my own party, were singularly inept in their handling of this, but you have a chance now.
You have a groundswell of public support nationally behind the industry and if you want to realise one of the biggest concerns that people have—a home for the waste—I think you have to show more leadership than this kind of getting close to it but not too close.
I know it is out of character for you, but I think a rather more aggressive approach might be appropriate.”
Michael Fallon MP: “Successive Governments have wrestled with this problem. It existed when I first came into Parliament in 1983. I think NIREX was recommending that the waste be stored in a mine at Billingham on Teesside. That was 30 years ago, so there is a long and fairly sad history to all this.
I still hope that we can cling to the volunteer principle. I still hope it is possible to find a way in which a local community can have an interest and see an interest in hosting this kind of disposal facility.
I am not going to rule out other options if it turns out, under whatever new process we come up with, that no community is willing to step forward. Of course, we will then have to look at other options, but I see this as part and parcel of the revival of interest in nuclear power.
I think it is probably the first time for a very long time that we have had all three of the major political parties in favour of nuclear power. I do not think that has happened in my political lifetime. They are all now in favour. We had a very, very large majority when the nuclear issue came up in discussion on the Energy Bill in my House.
We have the restarting of the civil nuclear programme with the agreements with EDF on Hinkley and the guarantee now given to Horizon, and the prospect of 12 new reactors spread over five sites. You are right: this is a time to capture some of the public support we need for nuclear and GDF, the disposal facility, is part of that. We will certainly have one very good go at getting this facility located for the long term, so we are not giving up on it.”
N.B Members nor witnesses have had the opportunity to correct the record from which the above extract was taken .
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