HC Deb 04 December 1963 vol 685 cc1133-5
6. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport what report he has received from the Atomic Energy Authority about the construction of a nuclear-powered merchant fleet; if he proposes to implement the recommendations; and if he will make a statement.

12. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Transport whether Her Majesty's Government's policy of modernisation will include the entry of Great Britain into the field of nuclear-powered merchant shipping assisted by Government finance.

67. Commander

Courtney asked the Minister of Transport when he intends to place an order for the first British prototype nuclear-powered merchant ship.

70. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on the reactor to be used in a nuclear-powered merchant ship.

Mr. Marples

I cannot add to the Answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on 27th November.

Mr. Awbery

May we take it that the Government's advisers have told them that it is feasible to go on with the construction of an atomic ship? Two atomic ships are already in existence—a cargo vessel belonging to the United States and an icebreaker belonging to Russia. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if we build in quantity, these ships will be much cheaper than building in units and that the Government are the only people who can proceed with such a project?

Mr. Marples

A working group is going into the technical aspects of this project and so far its technical assessment is proving difficult. We must give it time to do the job properly. The assessment has not yet been received by the Government.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this kind of Answer has been given year after year? Is it not time that we changed the working group and the leadership of the Atomic Energy Authority? Is it not time he got it into his head—I am sure that he has now—that unless we produce some reactor we shall lose the race in the world? Is he further aware that I and a great many others feel that we could triumph in this matter if he would only put a few bombs under some of those who ought to get on with the job and that he should cease his delaying answers?

Mr. Marples

I agree that some things do delay progress but I must remind my hon. Friend that the mere fact that this Answer has been given several times does not make it any the less true.

40. Mr. Lubbock

asked the Minister of Transport what study he has made of the 630A marine nuclear reactor developed in the United States of America; and if this system will be evaluated by the working group on marine reactor research in comparison with the Vulcain and IBR reactors.

Mr. Marples

This system is one of those currently being evaluated by the Working Group.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Minister aware that this 630A marine nuclear reactor is being ordered by marine commercial firms in the United States for incorporation in vessels about to be launched, and is there not a grave danger that this country will fall behind the United States in the development of reactors for commercial marine use? Should not the Ministertake a decision very shortly on the type of reactor to be used in British commercial merchant ships using an atomic propulsion system?

Mr. Marples

As I said in reply to an earlier Question, a Working Group is making a technical assessment. One of the reasons why it is taking longer than otherwise would be the case is that it is looking, not only at the Vulcain and IBR reactors, but at an improved version of the United Kingdom Mitchell design, and three American designs as well. If one does that, it obviously means that one will take longer.

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