HC Deb 14 April 1986 vol 95 cc565-6
5. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the safety record of the nuclear power industry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Alastair Goodlad)

The nuclear power industry has an excellent record on site and environmental safety. The Government and the industry are determined that the existing high standards should be upheld and improved further.

Mr. Proctor

Does my hon. Friend agree that nuclear power is the safest source of energy known to mankind?

Mr. Goodlad

My hon. Friend is right. Nuclear power is not only the cheapest and cleanest, but the safest form of electricity generation.

Mr. Rogers

Does the Minister accept that the safety record of some nuclear power installations is appalling? In addition to the present crisis in the industry caused by accidents, does he accept that the long-term effects of low-level radiation are severe and have not been quantified?

Mr. Goodlad

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Recent incidents have been exaggerated out of all proportion. None has presented a radiological hazard to the public. Each incident is rigorously investigated to see whether any lessons may be learnt.

Mr. Hannam

Is not the problem one of communication and a lack of understanding of the definitions used in the nuclear industry? Will my hon. Friend urge the new chairman of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. to evolve a better descriptive system of radioactivity so that people are not scared by the stories spread about fairly low levels of radioactive waste emissions?

Mr. Goodlad

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of communication. The new chairman of BNFL is extremely keen, as was his predecessor, to give simple explanations about the nuclear industry, without any sacrifice of accuracy.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister telling the House that the system of inspection is thorough? Is he giving the House an assurance that the number of inspectors supervising the nuclear power industry is adequate in number and in qualification?

Mr. Goodlad

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Chapman

Is my hon. Friend aware that the recent report of the Select Committee on the Environment expressing concern about some aspects of radioactive waste management was not concerned with all aspects of nuclear power, and that those who construe it as an attack on the nuclear industry are telling falsehoods?

Mr. Goodlad

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a distinguished member of that Select Committee, for his clarification.