HC Deb 14 December 1976 vol 922 cc1176-7
8. Miss Richardson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the manufacture of tritium at the British Nuclear Fuels plant at Chapelcross, Dumfries.

Mr. Mulley

As my predecessor said when replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bradley) on 29th April, the decision to manufacture tritium in the United Kingdom will ensure continuation of supplies on a long-term basis, will cost less and will provide additional employment in the Chapelcross area. It does not signify any change in our nuclear weapons programme, either in the numbers or types of nuclear weapons with which our forces are equipped or in the Anglo-American nuclear relationship.

Miss Richardson

I am grateful for that reply and for the Minister's confirmation. Is he aware of the real concern felt by the people of Chapelcross at the threat to them from this plant? Does he agree that as tritium is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the plant strikes at the clear undertaking which both he and his predecessor have given?

Mr. Mulley

I agree with my hon. Friend that tritium plays an essential part in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. It has to be renewed from time to time to maintain the existing stockpile. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that all the environmental and safety aspects of the new plant will be assessed and authorised by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Health and Safety Executive of the Scottish Development Department, and that we have completely followed the normal statutory requirements with regard to any planning permissions required.

Mr. Monro

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British Nuclear Fuels, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the Safety Inspectorate answered questions at a public meeting on the safety of this plant? Is he further aware that the majority of my constituents are in favour of the continuation of the Magnox plant and tritium development as being in the best interests of all concerned, particularly Britain?

Mr. Mulley

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, who represents the constituency concerned. The plant will provide a small number of jobs in the area. It is not a new thing for tritium to be manufactured in this country; it was manufactured here in the 1950s. The plant will lead to a saving in costs and will ensure that we have available our own sources.