HC Deb 16 January 1984 vol 52 cc47-8W
Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on international collaboration on fast reactors.

Mr. Peter Walker

On Tuesday 10 January I signed a memorandum of understanding with my counterparts in France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and Belgium for the joint development of fast reactors.

The memorandum extends existing European co-operation in the area of fast reactors between groupings led by Germany and France respectively. The Netherlands which already has agreements in place with Germany has also been involved in the discussions and has indicated its interest in signing in due course.

The memorandum underlines the Government's commitment to fast reactor development, to the long-term future of nuclear power in the United Kingdom, and to the continuing role for Dounreay, which was reaffirmed by my predecessor in his statement to the House on 29 November 1982. It follows the advice of the chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority, Sir Peter Hirsch, in consultation with the nuclear industry that we should seek international collaboration with Europe. In this way we can carry forward fast reactor technology while minimising costs, so as to enable the commercial ordering of fast reactors in the earlier part of the next century, if this proves necessary.

The memorandum is an expression of Government intent to establish long-term co-operation of fast reactor development, and sets out the key principles of this cooperation.

These include: —the harmonisation of research and development efforts, the sharing of relevant information and know-how, and the promotion of industrial co-operation; —appropriate implementing agreements drawn up by the industries in the respective countries; —confirmation that activities will be directed to the peaceful development of nuclear energy; —particular attention to fast reactor safety and an intention to establish, as far as possible, common safety criteria; —interest in extending collaboration to other countries, in particular USA and Japan.

I have placed copies of the full text of the memorandum in the Libraries of both Houses.

The memorandum is an umbrella under which the industry will be able progressively to set up its own general and specific implementing agreements covering particular aspects of collaboration. I hope to see these established on three broad fronts: research and development on fast reactors; their design, construction and operation; and the related fuel cycle. The programme allows the participant countries to pool their resources and maximise the benefits of their respective technical achievements and expertise whilst minimising duplication. It offers the prospect of achieving and demonstrating a thoroughly developed design of reactor with great emphasis placed on both safety and economic efficiency. The United Kingdom will thus be able to maintain its position at the forefront of fast reactor development while at the same time reducing the cost to the Exchequer. The programme will ensure that fast reactor technology will be in the best possible position to make a full contribution to our future energy supplies when the need comes.