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Nuclear Power Generation

Volume 13: debated on Monday 23 November 1981

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13.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what support he is giving to the development of power generation by nuclear fusion.

The United Kingdom is participating fully in the European fusion programme, the total budget for which is running at £130 million in the current year.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. As hydrogen is the most abundant of all chemical elements, and as two of the heavier hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, produce more energy per pound of material than any other reaction known in the universe, will my hon. Friend ensure that the Treasury at no point cuts the British fusion programme, because it is vital for our great-grandchildren's energy needs?

I would not begin to trespass upon my hon. Friend's technical knowledge or to suggest that I could prevent the Treasury from permanently making changes in programmes. However, I agree that the programme, if successful, could be a significant step towards the ultimate exploitation of the enormous potential of fusion.

There are reports that the Government are about to contract out of nuclear fusion technology. Would it not be wise for the Government to make a statement clarifying the Government's attitude to nuclear fusion, as we are talking about the future—a fact which he and his hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) underlined?

I do not see that I could express much more clearly the fact that the Government are participating fully in the programme. We are fully committed as a host to the programme and expect to spend around £30 million this year on the programme.

Will my hon. Friend accept that this nation has been one of the world leaders in terms of engineering and invention? Will he accept that the 10-year programme for nuclear power stations was also cut completely following the discovery of North Sea gas? Will he give an assurance that we shall not fall behind, as occurred with discoveries such as the hovercraft, but that we shall proceed with this fusion technique and become one of the world leaders, to the advantage of our children and our grandchildren?

Without seeking to correct my hon. Friend, I would only say that it was the impertinence of the Opposition when in office that had such a detrimental impact on our excellent long-term nuclear programme.