Nuclear Power Establishments

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch 12:00 am, 3rd June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the nuclear power establishments which Ministers in his Department have visited in the last three years.

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

During the past three years departmental ministers have on various occasions visited all the principal Atomic Energy Authority and British Nuclear Fuels sites and a number of nuclear power stations. I shall give details in the Official Report.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. During the visits, has he been made aware of a concerted campaign which is being waged and seeks to imply that the presence of these establisments in a locality is itself a primary cause of cancer for those who live nearby? Is there any medical evidence to support that? If not, will my hon. Friend please take this opportunity to destroy those scaremongering techniques, which are causing a great deal of unnecessary anxiety to many people?

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

As my hon. Friend knows, this is primarily a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health. However, the radioactive discharges from Winfrith, about which my hon. Friend and others have written to me, are strictly controlled by the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Monitoring carried out by both MAFF and the operators confirms that the radiological impact of discharges is well within internationality recommended limits and is insignificant in relation to naturally occurring radioactivity. It is most unlikely that Winfrith discharges could have given rise to increased levels of leukaemia. Variations in the local incidence of leukaemia are found throughout the country. Studies are being carried out by the local health authorities to identify the incidence of leukaemia throughout east Dorset, and are still at a preliminary stage. There is certainly no evidence that connects any increase in leukaemia with Winfrith.

Photo of Mr Donald Stewart Mr Donald Stewart , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Is the Minister aware that the announcement in a written answer on a Friday of the new nuclear development at Dounreay is regarded as an affront to Scottish opinion? Since, in the words of Sir Christopher Hinton, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority at the time, that installation went there originally because there was an element of danger, is the Minister aware that the new development is regarded in the same light in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

My understanding is that the announcement has been widely welcomed in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Is there not a need for the Government to mount a major campaign to put across to the largely uninformed public the basic point that that nuclear power is by far the safest form of energy conversion? Will he at least get across the simple point that one gets more radiation from having a colour television set in one's house than from living beside a nuclear power station?

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

I agree with my hon. Friend that reiteration of the facts can do a great deal to dispel misconceptions.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

If, in the near future, a Minister visits Dounreay, will he also take the opportunity to take the short trip across the water to my constituency in Orkney, where many people are worried that the new reprocessing plant may well cause difficulties and dangers to farming and marine interests? Will he reassure the House and my constituents that there will be a public inquiry so that these genuine anxieties can be fully expressed?

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has today announced his intention of calling in the planning application for his own decision and that a public inquiry will be held. As the hon. Gentleman will know, no one in the House is more alive to the interests of his constituents than I am.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

Is the Minister aware that there is genuine concern about aspects of nuclear discharges? For example, in Winfrith there is genuine local concern about unusually high levels of leukaemia, which are as yet unexplained? In order to allay these fears and worries, will he pull some of the information together and produce a comprehensive statement about the issues and problems arising from Winfrith so that those concerns and worries can be met?

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

When the result of the investigations to which I referred is available, I shall make sure that it is properly disseminated.

The following are the details.Nuclear power establishments visited by Department of Energy Ministers during the past three years are: