HC Deb 07 March 1988 vol 129 cc5-6
3. Mr. Sackville

To ask the Secretary of State for energy when he last met representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss nuclear safety.

Mr. Michael Spicer

My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency on a number of occasions. The Government are totally committed to ensuring that the British nuclear industry maintains its outstanding safety record.

Mr. Sackville

Does my hon. Friend agree that those hon. Members who are concerned about the safety of our nuclear installations should arrange to visit the Risley laboratory of the Atomic Energy Authority, where they will find evidence that the British nuclear industry presents a reservoir of expertise and skill in safety matters that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world?

Mr. Spicer

My hon. Friend is right about the excellent job done on safety matters at Risley. The British nuclear industry's record is second to none on these matters, and we mean to keep it that way.

Mr. Alan W. Williams

There have been contradictory press reports about the experiment which was supposed to be conducted at the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. The flow of cooling fluid was to be turned off in a Chernobyl-style experiment. Has that experiment been postponed, or cancelled?

Mr. Spicer

That is a matter for the CEGB. The experiment has been postponed but, of course, any test would be done under totally different conditions from anything comparable to Chernobyl. It is wrong to raise the Chernobyl matter. As one example of what would have happened, the power station would have been shut down. There was no question of the kind of experimentation and lack of safety systems that existed at Chernobyl being seen here. There is no comparison between the two. At the moment, the CEGB has postponed the experiment.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend agree that the highest standards of international agreements on nuclear safety are vital to this country, not because the British nuclear industry is in any way wanting — it has the highest safety standards of any country — but because there are so many foreign nuclear reactors, and if there were a serious accident the effect on the people of Britain as well as on the people of other European countries would be devastating?

Mr. Spicer

What my hon. Friend has said is absolutely true, and part of the reason—perhaps the main reason—why we co-operate so greatly on international matters is that we see it as imperative that the kinds of standards that we adopt here are as widespread as possible throughout the world.

Dr. Thomas

With regard to international co-operation in the nuclear industry, will the Minister ensure that any natural circulation tests that take place in the future at Trawsfynydd, or elsewhere, are subject to inspection by international representatives from the European Community and from the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Mr. Spicer

If I were to say yes to the hon. Gentleman, which I do not plan to do, that would suppose or presume that we have less than total confidence in our own regulators, which, of course, is not the case. We have total confidence in the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and in the operators to ensure the continuation of safety in the British nuclear industry.