Parliament 2010-07-14

Nuclear Power: Finance

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) what assessment he has made of the compatibility of his policy of providing no subsidy for nuclear power with the existing limitation on liabilities on private nuclear power plant operators under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965; [7735]
(2) if he will estimate the potential cost to the public purse of a beyond- design-basis accident at a civil nuclear installation in the United Kingdom that creates liabilities above the existing limitation of liabilities placed on nuclear installation operators; [7737]
(3) what discussions Ministers and officials in his Department have had with companies that have indicated an interest in building new nuclear power plants in the UK on the implications for their investment in new plants of the removal of limitation on liabilities under insurance arrangements covering nuclear installation operators. [7738]
Charles Hendry: The UK has an established and robust regulatory framework that ensures the nuclear industry effectively manages the risks associated with the operation of civil nuclear installations and facilities. As a result of this approach the probability of a beyond-design basis accident is considered to be exceedingly small, the possible costs for which it would not be meaningful to estimate in advance.
There is in place a well-established international regime for regulating liability and compensation for third party damage in the event of an accident. The Nuclear Installations Act 1965 ("1965 Act") implements the UK's obligations under the Paris convention on nuclear third party liability and the Brussels supplementary
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convention, which we have been contracting parties to since the 1960s. In giving effect to the Paris convention, the 1965 Act limits the liability of nuclear operators to £140 million.
We are currently working on amendments to the 1965 Act to implement the changes to the conventions agreed in 2004. These changes set a minimum operator liability of €700 million but there is discretion to set a higher limit or have it uncapped. In the circumstances we are reviewing the limitation of operators' liability. We have held no discussions with potential new nuclear operators on this issue however we intend to consult on our proposed changes to the 1965 Act, including limitation of liability, later this year.

Office for Nuclear Development

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for what reason the Office for Nuclear Development was established as a non-departmental public body; what assessment was made of the merits of establishing it as a unit within his Department; and whether it receives any funding support from the commercial nuclear industry. [8427]
Charles Hendry: The Office for Nuclear Development (OND) is not a non-departmental public body, but a unit within the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It was established in September 2008 to create a one-stop shop within Government to deal with nuclear matters. The OND does not receive any funding support from the commercial nuclear industry.