Nuclear Power Stations

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th October 1976.

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Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons) 12:00 am, 25th October 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has plans to publish further material to allow public debate to take place on the building of further nuclear plants in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will publish and encourage public debate on the dangers to the public that might be incurred if the United Kingdom builds a commercial scale nuclear fast reactor.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I welcome public debate and shall continue to keep the public fully informed about factors bearing on nuclear decisions. In this connection, I have just pubished some questions bearing on the safety of the fast reactor, which I am putting to the Nuclear Inspectorate and other bodies concerned, and I shall in due course publish the answers that I receive.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

Does the Secretary of State recognise that what we need will be objective information on a variety of matters and not the bland unsubstantiated assurances that have been criticised by the Royal Commission? Cannot he set an example in the short term in the way in which he deals with the reprocessing plant question arising at Windscale, by providing adequate information on long-term problems which might affect the work force and the problem of pollution in the Irish Sea? There are serious problems on both aspects of our nuclear policy on which we need information.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I entirely agree that people are entitled to have clear answers to the questions that are put. On the other hand, if there are uncertainties, as there are, people should know exactly what is the nature of those uncertainties before a decision is taken. The Windscale question is a separate matter, and there is another Question on the Order Paper about that.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

Has my right hon. Friend received the same representations as I have from the Transport and General Workers' Union at Caithness to the effect that there should be a demonstration of the commercial fast breeder reactor sited at Caithness and built by a consortium of the Central Electricity Generating Board, the South of Scotland Electricity Board and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board? Will he give considerato these views?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I have had representations of all kinds, including those to which my hon. Friend refers. At Dounreay there is a 250MW fast reactor now on stream. The decision that we have to take is whether to go ahead with the CFR—the commercial fast breeder reactor—and it is on this that there must be time for public discussion.