HC Deb 15 June 1965 vol 714 cc220-4
9. Mr. Gregory

asked the Minister of Technology what steps are being taken to produce in the United Kingdom the low enriched fuel suitable for the advanced gas-cooled reactor system for nuclear power, at prices competitive with supplies from the United States of America.

Mr. Cousins

The A.E.A. will shortly submit to me proposals on the future of the Capenhurst factory as a producer of low enriched uranium in relation to the need for this material for the second nuclear power programme. I shall not be in a position to answer questions about competitive costs until I have received and considered this submission.

Mr. Gregory

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that answer, I am sure he is aware that industry is very much concerned about the success in obtaining low enrichment fuels to be available not only for our nuclear power industry but also for essential export purposes. I hope my right hon. Friend will make further inquiries to ensure that they are available.

14. Mr. Osborn

asked the Minister of Technology what studies he has made and what information he has about the operating and installation of water-moderated, advanced gas-cooled, and fast breeder reactors for the generation of electric power; if he will instruct the Atomic Energy Authority to publish a technical report on reactor types, giving installation and operating costs; and if he will summarise this in a White Paper.

Mr. Cousins

Technical and other information on the advanced gas-cooled reactor, the fast breeder reactor and the steam generating heavy-water type of water-moderated reactor has been and will continue to be published from time to time by the Atomic Energy Authority.

Mr. Osborn

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that many welcome the announcement of the breakthrough by the Minister of Power? Although many in the House were disappointed that he was not here but were aware that he had good reasons for not being here, we were somewhat disappointed in the reluctance of the Minister of Power to display enthusiasm for the break-through in atomic energy. We concede that there are certain aspects which are of a commercial nature. There are other aspects of a technical nature for which this House and the country would like much more detailed information. Would he consider publishing—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Perhaps the Minister could now answer to what extent he is aware of these various propositions.

Mr. Cousins

The Minister would have found it a lot easier to answer had he been able to hear the supplementary question. In giving the information, the C.E.G.B. will cover economic and technical details of the advanced gas-cooled reactor and a comparison with the economies of the best of the water-moderated designs submitted for the Dungeness B station. As the hon. Gentleman said, it was regrettable that I was not able to be here. I was with the Atomic Energy Authority on that day. I should have liked to participate in the discussion.

16. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will make a statement on the technological implications of the advanced gas-cooled reactor.

Mr. Cousins

I would prefer to defer any statement until fuller technical information becomes available, on conclusion of the contract negotiations between C.E.G.B. and the industrial group concerned.

19. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Technology if, with a view to promoting exports of British reactors, he will seek the agreement of the Central Electricity Generating Board and of the nuclear engineering company concerned to the publication, in as full detail as possible and in all the major European languages, of the technical features of an advanced gas-cooled reactor, as recently accepted for the Dungeness B power station.

Mr. Cousins

I understand that comprehensive details of the design and cost of the advanced gas-cooled reactor accepted for Dungeness B station will be given full publicity by the Central Electricity Generating Board as soon as the contract negotiations have been completed. Our diplomatic and trade posts abroad have already been given information to enable them to make good use of the opportunities for publicity presented by the A.G.R. success at Dungeness.

Mr. Ridley

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this break-through gives us great opportunities for sales all over the world, particularly in Europe, and that a very high degree of responsibility rests on his Department to make sure that the information is presented correctly and in the right language and in the way in which people want to have it? Will he give an undertaking that he will look into this matter with the greatest care?

Mr. Cousins

I accept fully that a great degree of responsibility rests on my Department. I am as proud as many other hon. Members must be that the advanced gas-cooled reactor succeeded. We shall consider translating the information into any language when there are prospects of trade.

Mr. Lubbock

In order that the Central Electricity Generating Board could have made this decision in favour of the advanced gas-cooled reactor, must not very thorough studies have been undertaken which have been documented in the presentation to the Board which the Minister now says is being conveyed to our diplomatic staff abroad? Is there any reason why this information should not be given to the House? What is the reason for this continued fatuous secrecy about the economic assessment by the Central Electricity Generating Board?

Mr. Cousins

There is no question of a blanket of secrecy about this. There are commercial problems involved in discussion between the C.E.G.B. and the group which has succeeded, and I think that both sides of the House recognise that. Our diplomatic and trade posts have been given the broad information on which to work, not the detail asked for in the Question, and I hope that that will be presented as soon as possible.

20. Sir H. Legge-Bourke

asked the Minister of Technology if he will publish the technical assessments made by the Atomic Energy Authority of the various tenders, British and United States, when advising the Central Electricity Generating Board with regard to the Dungeness B station reactor; what steps he is taking to promote the exports of the type of advanced gas-cooled reactor selected; and what part he plans should be played by the Atomic Energy Authority to this end.

Mr. Cousins

Responsibility for technical assessment of the tenders lay with the C.E.G.B.; it was assisted by the Authority. C.E.G.B. has to complete its contract negotiations with the industrial group concerned before further technical information can be issued.

The Authority has a great interest in promoting exports of A.G.R. stations; and it has many opportunities through its numerous activities abroad, all of which it will be anxious to take.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

While I appreciate that it may be difficult for the C.E.G.B. to make any publications until the contracts have been completed, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we can take his recent decision about the commercial activities of the Atomic Energy Authority to mean that the Authority can now feel far less inhibited in promoting the sale of atomic energy equipment abroad?

Mr. Cousins

This was the purpose of establishing the trading fund.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Will the Minister indicate whether this increased interest in the gas-cooled reactor will mean a delay in the location of a fast-breeder reactor, which may concern Scot- land? Is he not aware that if a decision on this subject is not made soon there might well be a substantial brain drain from the Atomic Energy Establishment in Scotland?

Mr. Cousins

No, this will have no effect. It will not delay the matter at all. I have answered in correspondence and earlier Written Answers that I hope to visit Scotland concerning this subject shortly. There is, however, a substantial amount of work available at Dounreay at the moment.

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