HC Deb 27 July 1965 vol 717 cc204-6
3. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Technology, in view of the fact that the most appropriate location for the forthcoming fast breeder new type reactor station is at or near Dounreay Atomic Station, with its relevant scientific equipment and staff, if he will now take steps to have it placed there; and when he will now take decisions on whether the project will proceed and on where it will be sited.

10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Technology when he expects to make a statement on the siting of the prototype fast breeder reactor.

19. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will now announce the siting of the proposed prototype fast breeder reactor.

Mr. Cousins

I expect the Atomic Energy Authority to submit to me its proposals for a prototype fast reactor some time in the next few months. As soon as possible thereafter the Government will announce their decision whether to proceed and, if so, where the reactor should be built. The claims of Dounreay will be taken fully into account along with those of other possible locations.

Mr. Hughes

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that it would be in the national interest if the splendid but largely experimental work carried out at Dounreay were linked up with an adjacent factory of a productive character producing scientific instruments, fine tools, machine tools and similar articles, which at present have to be imported from Germany and elsewhere, to the national loss? Will my right hon. Friend take steps to bring this about?

Mr. Cousins

This is a difficult assessment to undertake. One has first to understand what the experimental reactor is doing and what a prototype fast reactor would do. It would be a producer of energy for transmission to industry. That would be the purpose and not to be used as an instrument to make fine tools. Wherever it is placed it will inevitably create energy that will require to be transmitted to an adjacent industrial area. But it would not be the corollary of putting it in an area that one should set up another establishment at the same time.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend indicate when the Atomic Energy Authority will be making its recommendations to him? Will it be this side of October or November? Can he further say what representations he has received, particularly from Scottish sources, on the siting of the fast reactor in the Highlands on social, economic, political and every other ground one can think of?

Mr. Cousins

I cannot state precisely when the Atomic Energy Authority will report to me, but, as I have said before, I hope it will not be much longer before I can announce the date. Delay was caused by the fact that the Authority had to complete work on the design of the fuel elements before it could make suggestions as to the creation of the prototype reactor itself. Representations have been made to me from Scotland, and they have been very substantial. Indeed, many areas have made a point that it should be placed where it would be of the greatest value to Scottish development.

Mr. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the last Government intended to come to a decision on this matter in March or April this year because they were concerned about research work drying up at Dounreay and a consequent brain drain? Why is it taking so long to come to a decision?

Mr. Cousins

The facts are not as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The last Government were not intending to come to a decision by March or April. They could not have done so until they received the report from the Authority. Research work is not drying up. The Authority has a considerable amount of work to do at Dounreay. My understanding of the approach is that the facilities will be used for the creation of power for development of the Dounreay area in toto.

Mr. George Y. Mackie

Nevertheless, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that considerable anxiety has been expressed by many bodies and by hon. Members on both sides about the delay in the decision? Is he further aware that Mr. Norman Elliott, Chairman of the South of Scotland Electricity Board, has come out in favour of the reactor being placed at Dounreay? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the work on burn-up in the fuel elements is sufficiently advanced to make the prototype forecast compare favourably with the advanced gas-cooled reactors?

Mr. Cousins

I would not be prepared to confirm that until I have received the report. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I am conscious of the anxiety over where the prototype is to be placed. Indeed, he and I were together during a recent visit to examine the social and economic problems affecting Caithness. The decision will not be delayed any longer than is required to consider all the economic and social consequences.