§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made with research into methods of desalination of sea water; what is the annual cost of such research; and what plans exist to expand the present research programmes.]
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I must apologise that the Answer to this Question is a little longer than I should have wished. The desalination research and development programme now being undertaken by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in conjunction with industry has been in operation for a little over twelve months. Progress in the three main areas of development is as follows. Multi-stage flash distillation: experimental facilities are in operation at Winfrith and Harwell and an additional sea-water test establishment at Troon will shortly be completed. All these facilities will be used in efforts to improve design and reduce capital costs. Reverse osmosis, recent work has opened up the possibility of producing an improved type of membrane which is to be tested. Engineering problems associated with the design and construction of plant units using this process will be studied. Electrodialysis: a new prototype testing unit is nearing completion.
The present programme is based on a planned expenditure of about £1.5 million over three years. Plans to expand this programme will depend upon the evaluation of the technical results arising from current work. It will be appreciated that, in the applied field in the Atomic Energy Authority, research and development and engineering design are very closely integrated, and thus major design studies have been carried out into desalination plants one order of magnitude greater than built hitherto and the possible combination of such units with nuclear power plant.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that interesting reply which I am sure must 777 have given great encouragement to many Members of your Lordships' House. I wonder whether by noble friend can tell me if, when considering the making of an order for the building of a new reservoir such as the one in High Teesdale recently, the Minister responsible takes into account this really most encouraging progress, and bears in mind the fact that we may be able to get desalination of water at a reasonably cheap price before the reservoir is ready, and therefore it might be prudent to wait a little longer until desalination is a practicable proposition.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I think it would be unwise to fail to plan to meet needs which are apparent already. There are great hopes that the desalination programme will produce, especially in association with atomic energy plants, an additional source of water which will be at least as cheap, or even cheaper, taking into account all the equipment that is necessary for pipes and reservoirs, but in view of the pressing need for fresh water it is too early to cancel any existing plans. All these matters are being considered.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether the desalination programme deals only with sea water or deals also with the purification of inland waters?
My Lords, I take it that the noble Lord is primarily referring to brackish water rather than water to which industrial chemicals may have been added which is another question altogether. This programme is mainly concerned with salt and brackish waters.
My Lords, has the noble Lord any information on desalination through solar evaporation, which I believe is being experimented on in Israel?