HC Deb 27 April 1965 vol 711 cc213-5
28. Mr. Driberg

asked the Minister of Technology if, in view of the shortage of water in many parts of Great Britain, he will expedite research on the desalination of sea water; and if he will circulate in HANSARD a full statement on the progress of such research, on the various processes that have been tested and the results of the tests, on the information available as a result of research in other countries, and on the likely cost of any scheme that proves practicable.

Mr. Cousins

I recognise the importance of this subject and I have directed the Atomic Energy Authority, under Section 4 of the Science and Technology Act, to take responsibility for a substantial programme of research and development into desalination methods. With permission, I propose to circulate a fuller statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Driberg

Can my right hon. Friend say how quickly progress is likely to be made, since if there were really rapid progress in this research it could avert such unfortunate disputes as that between Manchester and the Lake District?

Mr. Cousins

This subject is receiving urgent attention, and I shall circulate the report.

Mr. Tilney

Will the right hon. Gentleman see what can be done to expedite the conservation of fresh water now running to waste into the seas round our coasts?

Following is the Statement:


After consultation with the Atomic Energy Authority, I have issued a direction under Section 4 of the Science and Technology Act 1965 requiring them to be solely responsible on behalf of the Government for research and development into methods of desalination of salt water for civil use. The Authority are accordingly embarking on a programme of work in this field the main emphasis of which will initially be on multistage flash distillation techniques and the associated plant development. Work on flash distillation techniques will be a joint effort between the Authority and industry. The Authority's programme will also include work on other techniques. The Authority will study the possibilities of using nuclear power reactors for the dual purpose of generating electricity and supplying steam to large desalination plants as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels as the source of heat for raising steam.

After consultation with the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, I have asked the Authority to assume responsibility for the Committee on Desalination Research, which formerly operated under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This Committee, in its new form, will advise the Atomic Energy Authority on research and development into methods of desalination. It will not be concerned with specific proposals for the production and use of desalted water in this country.

Under the Water Resources Act, 1963, the Water Resources Board have an interest in desalination as part of their statutory function to advise on ways and means of conserving, redistributing or otherwise augmenting water resources generally throughout England and Wales. The Board are now being invited to nominate a representative to the Advisory Committee.

The Water Research Association, which is supported by public water undertakings throughout the country and is already represented on the Advisory Committee, is at present engaged on an assessment, extending over three years, of the economic and technical feasibility of the application of desalination to British water supply. This study began in October 1964. An interim report should be available for publication later this year.

The machinery of the Advisory Committee will facilitate co-ordination of the activities of the Authority and of their commercial collaborators in the development of desalination techniques for exploitation both at home and in export markets; of the Water Resources Board, who are responsible for the augmentation of water resources generally; and of the statutory water undertakings who have the duty of securing the public water supply.

British industry have been mainly responsible for the methods of desalination now in commercial use and for the design and manufacture of most of the desalination plants in operation in the world today. The Government intend to do everything possible to maintain our leading position in this important field and to ensure that we take an appropriate share of what is likely to be a rapidly expanding export market.

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