Nuclear Energy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:55 pm on 13th May 1986.

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Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 4:55 pm, 13th May 1986

No. I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that we have been anything but content with facilities at Drigg for some time. I am sure that he is aware that an announcement was made several months ago to upgrade the facility at Drigg—a decision that was long overdue. I emphasise that, even with the compacting of waste, the site at Drigg has a finite life and we cannot continue indefinitely cramming more and more waste and radioactive material into it.

I was discussing the reprocessing of Magnox fuel. About 2,000 tonnes of Magnox fuel from British programmes await reprocessing. During the next few years, about 1,000 tonnes per annum will result from Britain's Magnox stations. BNFL is contracted to deal with the material on behalf of British generating boards. Any necessary decommissioning of aging Magnox power stations will add significantly to those totals. In those circumstances, suggestions that early closure of the plant is desirable or possible are frequently misleading

Dry storage is not a better alternative, even if it were possible. Nor would public opinion readily welcome or accept a proliferation of stores for highly radioactive, long-lived nuclear fuel elements around the country. There is now deep public concern in Britain about nuclear power, waste disposal, siting of reactors and accidents. It is unlikely that people would accept that we should further complicate the position by dispersing more and more radioactive fuel around the country. Surely even this Government have learnt that we urgently need a freedom of information Act to ensure the fullest possible and best-informed debate. Those aspects of the Official Secrets Act applying to civil nuclear power should be removed. I reiterate the Labour party's commitment to that action.

We also require the urgent completion of Magnox safety reviews and the publication of the relevant documents. We remain committed to a ban on sea dumping of radioactive waste. The Labour party supports proposals for the inclusion of local authority members, trade unionists and environmentalists on the boards of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and NIREX.

I emphasise that we remain totally opposed to the construction of a pressurised water reactor. We are immediately committed to halting the production of weapons grade material in British civil nuclear power stations or, for that matter, in any other facility. Labour opposes the introduction of the fast reactor and emphasises the need for a full public inquiry into the proposed reprocessing plant at Dounreay.

We should ensure that the nuclear installations inspectorate is strengthened and that control of the nuclear industry and all the bodies which oversee it is examined and, where possible, rationalised.