HC Deb 04 February 1974 vol 868 cc877-8
29. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Minister for Energy whether, since Magnox nuclear reactors are now accepted as safe, he will reconsider the present policy of not siting nuclear power stations close to centres of population, with a view to utilising disused dock areas in cities such as Liverpool as sites for such power stations.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

No change in Government siting policy for this type of nuclear power station is contemplated.

Mr. Fortescue

Safety, of course, must be paramount at all times, but if the two-thirds of the heat produced by these generators which is at present wasted could be utilised in district heating systems, and since the Magnox reactor is now accepted as safe, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is worth looking at the policy again because the economics of nuclear generation of power would be transformed if these generators could be sited near centres of population, where their waste products could be utilised?

Mr. Jenkin

Clearly, the change in the costs of energy will have altered the balance of costs in using part of the reactors' output for district heating. I am sure that my hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying that safety must be paramount. That remains the Government's view.

Mr. Palmer

Will the right hon. Gentleman make available to the House an outline of the criteria that govern the siting of nuclear power stations? Is he aware that those criteria were relaxed in 1967, I think, but no public statement has ever been made?

Mr. Jenkin

It is with diffidence that I differ from the hon. Gentleman, because the then Minister of Power, on 6th February 1968, made a statement in the House on this subject. I shall consider whether anything more needs to be published.

Sir John Tilney

Is it not true that experts in the Central Electricity Generating Board think that it is now quite safe for nuclear producers of electricity to be situated in urban communities?

Mr. Jenkin

This must be a matter on which the Government are advised by the nuclear inspectorate. While the advice of the Central Electricity Generating Board is clearly relevant, the advice of the nuclear inspectorate, under Acts passed by this House, must be paramount.

Mr. Freeson

Is not the advice of the nuclear inspectorate precisely the same as the advice being proffered by the CEGB on this matter?

Mr. Jenkin

It is not customary for the advice given to Ministers by their civil servants on that matter to be made public in the House.