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Nuclear Power

Volume 113: debated on Monday 30 March 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received concerning the expenditure of public money by his Department on the promoting of nuclear power.

My right hon. Friend and I have received many representations about the importance of informing the public of the facts about the safety of nuclear power and its economic and strategic benefits.

Why are the Government spending considerable amounts of public money on a PR hype for the nuclear industry, including jamborees to Sellafield involving the Flying Scotsman and the Workington brass band, when the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is grossly under-staffed and under-funded? The Government have asked the CEGB to investigate itself at Hinkley Point, but it has failed to keep Sellafield safe and is miles behind in its 20-year review of Magnox nuclear stations.

Public confidence in nuclear power is vital and will be brought about only through the full knowledge of the true facts. To this end, successive Governments have funded a programme of public information through the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. The authority's task is to provide clear and accurate information on the nature and uses of civil nuclear power. The industry is sometimes wrongly castigated for being secretive. It is extremely unfair to blame that industry when it is being informative. I am satisfied that the NIL is able to maintain safety standards in exercising its statutory role. There is absolutely no question of safety at our installations being prejudiced. The chief inspector has categorically stated that his priority is the safety of operating installations and that he has sufficient staff resources to discharge that essential aim.

Is it not extraordinary that hardly a day passes in this Chamber when the Opposition parties do not whinge about the so-called decline in our manufacturing base, yet they do everything possible to oppose Britain becoming more competitive by opposing cheap nuclear energy that gives a competitive edge to our opponents, particularly to the French?

My hon. Friend is correct. There is no consistency in the Opposition parties.

The Minister has just said that he wants to give as much information and to be as open as possible. Therefore, could he comment on the AGR accident at Hartlepool? Why has no statement been made so far by the Government, and can he tell us the cost of that accident to date?

The CEGB has made a perfectly open statement about that. I shall certainly let the right hon. Gentleman know about the costs when they have been ascertained.