The full facts about the Harrisburg incident are not yet known, and it would be premature to reach conclusions at this stage. The important thing is that the lessons should be learned and the implications fully assessed when we have the facts. I await the considered views of the nuclear installations inspectorate and the other bodies concerned.
When the Secretary of State reaches those conclusions, will he bear in mind that 16 pressurised water reactor stations in the United States have been closed on safety grounds? Is he aware that 14 separate American studies are being carried out into the Three Mile Island incident, all of which will be published? Can he give the House an assurance that at least one of the four British studies will be published, especially that from the nuclear installations inspectorate?
I shall consider the suitability and timing of publishing all those studies. I believe strongly that these are centrally important matters which should be the subject of full and open debate, otherwise the safety aspect will not receive the attention that it deserves.
The Government believe that nuclear power has a vital long-term role to play in energy policy. We must take into account all these lessons and all the reports that the hon. Member mentioned when considering our reaction to the Harrisburg incident.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the experience of Harrisburg shows that the PWR is not as good a reactor as the American industry made out, and that the British advanced gas-cooled reactor has proved to be better, both in results and reliability, than its American competitors?
Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will do everything possible to bring forward the fast-breeder reactor so that we can move into that era of electricity generation which will be of considerable benefit to everybody?
Is the Secretary of State aware of the great pressure from industry and the CEGB to introduce the PWR into Britain? Will he resist those pressures until the safety aspects have been examined fully? In the meantime, will the Secretary of State urge upon the CEGB and the industry the further development of the advanced gas-cooled reactor? Will he also urge the industry to develop export markets for this excellent reactor?
I am aware of the recent history of this development, including the position that obtained under the previous Government. The Harrisburg incident imposes a period of reflection. That must be used to clarify and to make a right decision on reactors generally.
Will the Secretary of State inform the Prime Minister that she did great damage by what appeared to be ill-informed comments when she visited a French nuclear establishment last week? Will he tell the Prime Minister that the French chose the nuclear power road because, unlike Britain, they have few indigenous sources of energy? Is the Secretary of State aware that to hint that we are involved in a substantial nuclear power programme is sheer irresponsibility?
I know of the hon. Member's major role in the coal industry, but I think that he has this matter out of perspective. In earlier answers I recognised the central importance of coal to our future energy policy. Beyond that, if we are objective, there is a case for low-cost nuclear energy. I do not see that these need to be rivals. The hon. Member's worries are misplaced. His views about the Prime Minister's observations are ill-founded.
Is there not a case for postponing any moves towards further nuclear reactor installations until these safety aspects are clarified? Is the Secretary of State aware of the strong industrial pressures, notably from GEC, about the installation of PWRs? May we have a categorical assurance that the Secretary of State's sole criterion is safety and that neither market considerations nor the multinationals' influence will be taken into account?