HC Deb 16 February 1977 vol 926 cc474-6
2. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish a White Paper in response to the Flowers Report on Nuclear Power and the Environment.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Shore)

The Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution raises issues of major national importance affecting a number of Government Departments. The Government will publish their response as quickly as possible.

Mr. Forman

Will such a White Paper cover some of the environmental issues likely to be raised at the public inquiry into BNFL's plan for a mixed oxide reprocessing plant at Windscale? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that no decision will be taken on the commercial fast-breeder reactor unless or until the Government have acted upon some of the recommendations in the Flowers Report, particularly on the important questions relating to nuclear waste?

Mr. Share

I hesitate to say more about Windscale, because I made a statement on 22nd December and the Royal Commission Report went very much wider than the question of the particular oxide processing plant. On the wider environmental issues that the Flowers Report identified, we shall be giving a careful response and addressing ourselves to the whole complicated question of waste management and disposal.

Mr. Thompson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the anger felt in areas that have been selected for research into the disposal of nuclear waste into geological formations? Is he aware that many people believe that once test borings are made we shall be on the slippery slope to becoming a nuclear dump, and that we shall be left with no protection from bureaucratic decisions? Will these matters be covered in the White Paper'?

Mr. Shore

I am certain that no specific decisions will be made in a White Paper which will be a general response to matters raised by the Flowers Committee. I deplore the language that the hon. Gentleman used, but I can assure him that clearly there must be a programme of research into suitable places within the United Kingdom where, on the best possible information, it is safe to dispose of nuclear waste. It is the duty of the Government and responsible agencies to examine the whole country to discover the most suitable areas. No decision has been made, and there is no question of the Government's simply announcing a decision if and when we reach the time when we wish to do so.

Mr. William Hamilton

Why does my right hon. Friend think that the Japanese want to export their nuclear waste thousands of miles away?

Mr. Shore

I think that the Japanese have two reasons. They have made no secret of them. The first is that they are prone to repeated volcanic influences, and it is difficult for their Government to envisage anywhere in their territory that would provide safe geological formations in which they could store waste.

Secondly, for reasons that we all understand, in Japan there is an extra sensitivity to all nuclear questions.

Mr. Penhaligon

Will the Secretary of State explain the logic of one Government Department asking the House for another £1,000 million to extend the nuclear power industry before his Department has given us guidance on his reaction to the Flowers Report?

Mr. Shore

The matters covered by the nuclear legislative proposals that we put before the House a week or so ago of course go much further than the question of building a particular oxidisation plant. They include many other things, such as the provision of new and improved facilities for dealing with Magnox fuels at Windscale. It is appropriate for the Ministry to go ahead as it plans to do. That will not pre-empt or prejudge the results of the inquiry that I am about to set up.