HC Deb 19 December 1967 vol 756 cc340-1W
45. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Technology what work he is doing on desalination under Section 4 of the Science and Technology Act.

Mr. Benn:

On 27th April, 1965, my predecessor asked the Atomic Energy Authority to assume responsibility for research and development into methods of desalination of salt water for civil use. (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 711, C. 214.)

The Authority drew up a three-year R. and D. programme with two principal objectives: first, to exploit the development potential of the British multi-stage flash distillation process, and secondly, to explore alternative methods of desalination which might show improvements on the multi-stage flash process in due course.

The first objective has been pursued in close collaboration with Weir Westgarth Limited, and significant reductions in cost have been obtained. Many of the benefits of our initial programme have not yet reached the stage of commercial application. But Weir Westgarth's have won three overseas orders this year amounting to a total capacity of more than 5 m.g.d.

The second objective has led to work on electro-dialysis in collaboration with William Boby Limited and has resulted in the construction of a new design of pilot plant, which shows promise for commercial exploitation.

Simon-Carves Limited, have collaborated with Harwell in a design study for a desalination plant based on a freezing process and a range of experimental facilities is being commissioned at Harwell.

The third advanced process studied in collaboration with Yarsley Laboratories and the A. D. Little Research Institute employs reverse osmosis, particularly suitable for brackish waters. Portal Holdings Limited are also collaborating in the development of this system.

The R. and D. programme will be completed within its original estimated cost of £1.3 million of public money, of which some 20 per cent. has been used to finance work by the Authority's industrial collaborators.

I have now approved a second programme of work by the Authority at an estimated cost of £4 million over the period ending 31st March, 1971, of which almost half will be used to finance agreed programmes of work by the Authority's industrial collaborators. The programme will also include a continuing study of desalination plants powered by nuclear reactors for which commercial designs have been prepared during the first programme and which are continually being up-dated.

I am sure the House will join with me in wishing success for this second programme.