HC Deb 21 July 1980 vol 989 cc15-6

9. Mr. Gummer asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will bring forward legislation to provide for evidence to be taken on the desirability of any reactor system for which application for a site licence is made at the time of the licensing hearing.

Mr. Norman Lament

I take it that my hon. Friend has in mind the possibility of an application by the CEGB for consent to build a PWR station at Sizewell, in his constituency. I have made it clear that there will be a full and thorough public inquiry on any such application. The principal safety documentation supporting the initial licensing of the station by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate will be prepared with a view to its being made available to the public.

Mr. Gummer

I thank my hon. Friend for that announcement. Does he agree that it is important that people should feel that they can argue the merits of the system as well as the siting? If we are to have a proper democratic argument, whether it goes against the Government or for the Government, it is important that everyone should feel that the report is based on real evidence that has been arrived at properly.

Mr. Lamont

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's philosophy. The Government take the view that there must be a full inquiry into any new reactor system and that all the issues must be explored thoroughly.

Dr. Owen

When does the hon. Gentleman expect such a public inquiry to be held? Will he confirm that there is increasing doubt whether the PWR design will pass even the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate? There is considerable scientific disquiet about the feasibility of running a PWR and a fast breeder reactor design at the same time. Is it not time that the Government reconsidered their decision on the PWR, bearing in mind that it conflicts with many other energy priorities?

Mr. Lamont

I cannot say anything about the date for an inquiry yet. No application to build a PWR station has yet been received from the CEGB. As regards any conflict and any conflicting demand for manpower resources by the fast reactor as well as the PWR, we are still reviewing fast breeder reactor policy. No decisions have been taken and we do not expect an early announcement.

Mr. Palmer

If the reference is to the Sizewell site and possibly to putting a pressurised water reactor on that site, would it not be as well if the Government awaited the conclusions of the investigations of the Select Committee on energy into the nuclear power programme?

Mr. Lamont

I referred to a particular site only because it is in my hon. Friend's constituency and because there has been speculation about it. No decision has been made about any site. We are all awaiting the report of the Select Committee.