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Mr. Dalyell: If all this represents the whole story, why has Dounreay been awarded its fifth ROSPA gold medal for safety?

Ms Cunningham: That is an extremely good question to which I do not know the answer. On the face of it, Dounreay should not have been given any commendation; the vast majority of the public in Scotland would be astonished to discover that it had been commended.

The Scottish National party does not believe that nuclear waste should be reprocessed. Reprocessing increases stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and spreads them around the world, where they are increasingly vulnerable to theft and misuse. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith) spoke of the dangers of Departments promoting policies at variance with each other. He might be interested to know that Dounreay has in the past exported highly enriched uranium to India--no doubt one of the UK's contributions to non-proliferation.

Contrary to what the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) may like to imply in the press, the SNP believes that each country is responsible for storing its own waste--and that includes Scotland. In 1992, Scottish Nuclear planned its own dry storage facility at Torness. The Government stalled the decision on the facility, but Scottish Nuclear did not hang about--with the result that the waste was and is transported to Sellafield. The SNP made no objection in 1992 to the proposal for the facility at Torness, because it was in keeping with our policy. We do not promote NIMBYism; we simply believe that what countries make in their own back yards they should keep in their own back yards--hardly an unreasonable line to take.

We should like above-ground dry storage facilities at each of the Scottish sites where we can responsibly store spent fuel and put an end to the cycle of reprocessing and proliferation.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Cunningham: I need to press on; sorry.

With on-site dry storage, nuclear material will not have to be transported around the United Kingdom or the world, thereby reducing the risks of accident, theft and terrorist attack. The material would be retrievable and easily monitored--an aspect too often overlooked in discussions about non-proliferation.

In order to know whether plutonium is missing we need to know what amounts there were in the first place. There are further opportunities for the UK's nuclear industry to

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play its part in non-proliferation. Both BNFL and UKAEA have the technology to immobilise separated plutonium--to embed it in glass logs or ceramic pellets in such a way as to make it easy and convenient to store and harder to use for making weapons. Consideration should also be given to adapting existing technologies to the good uses to which they have already been put by the USA--methods described by BNFL as the optimum for converting high-level waste into a solid form that can be stored safely, conveniently and economically. This information comes from BNFL's briefing note "The Vitrification Plant", to be found on its website.

Immobilisation is considered by the United States to fulfil its spent fuel standard, which stipulates that, whatever is done with its stockpiles of separated plutonium, it must be rendered as inaccessible as it is when locked into a spent fuel rod. At the sametime, President Clinton has made a commitment to downblending the nuclear material retrieved from former warheads, and placing it in secure storage. It is estimated that there are between 1,600 and 2,000 kg of plutonium in the UK extracted from former warheads. Where is that plutonium; is the Minister prepared to commit himself to retiring it?

It would appear that the SNP currently has a clearer policy on the disposition of plutonium than do the Government. We want a halt to reprocessing, on-site dry storage, the adoption of the spent fuel standard, and consideration of immobilisation technologies.

The lack of debate on the subject to date has been shameful. The secretive, underhand way in which the Government brought in the Georgia waste was illustrative of the Government's attitude, making a mockery of their manifesto promise of

If this was transparency I dread to think what is going on in secret--and this is an industry bedevilled by secrecy. We sometimes find out about failures only years after they occur, but we are always reassured that everything is safe and secure--except for what happened last week, last month, or 10 or 20 years ago.

This is not good enough: it leads to a breakdown in public confidence. The SNP is wholly willing for Scotland to play a responsible part in international efforts towards non-proliferation. I want to put paid to some of the spurious accusations of recent weeks. Our belief is that nuclear proliferation gives rise to serious concern that must be met with international determination. The Government must be prepared to conduct a thorough debate and an open consultation, along with their international partners. Through that process I would hope to reach a far more principled stance than the current mix of arm's-length policy and hollow rhetoric allows.

11.47 am

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): The other side of the coin is this: if we do not have nuclear energy, what will we do about global warming and its related problems?

Dounreay is well equipped to recover plutonium and highly-enriched uranium from fuel elements and residues. It provides a safe and secure area for carrying out such work. The security standards have been confirmed as meeting the requirements of the DTI's independent security watchdog, the Department of Civil Nuclear

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Security. The full complement of police is in place, and a new security fence costing more than £1 million was installed in 1997.

Dounreay's discharges from carrying out reprocessing work are low. The dose to the most exposed group of the public is only 1 per cent. of that received from natural background radiation. As I have pointed out, Dounreay has just been awarded its fifth ROSPA gold medal--and ROSPA is run by pretty competent people.

Reprocessing produces a well-characterised waste form that is stable and suitable for safe long-term storage or disposal. Dounreay has long experience of safe transport of plutonium to Sellafield. The recovery of the highly enriched uranium at Dounreay is beneficial because it can be used either directly or indirectly in the production of medical isotopes. If the Minister thinks that any of those facts are wrong, he will no doubt tell me. I am sure that he has some explanation as to what actually happened after the accidents involving the bulldozer.

There are others who want to speak, so I shall briefly say that, in preparation for this debate, I went to my old friend John Dunster, who authorised me to quote him. He says:

There are problems with enriched uranium and plutonium. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) made a constructive speech: the vitrification avenue may be as good, if not better.I welcomed the whole tone of his introduction, because, although I did not agree with him, it was highly constructive and measured. I congratulate him on the style and the way in which he put the argument.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): I note that my hon. Friend began his speech by expressing concern that we needed to continue with nuclear power, but does he accept that mixed oxide fuel is not seen as a potential fuel in this country, and that the concern in this debate is about the massive stockpiles of plutonium that are being developed as a result of MOX and other reprocessed fuels, for which this country has absolutely no use?

Mr. Dalyell: The brief answer is that the International Atomic Energy Agency has calculated that, through the use of MOX fuel, plutonium stockpiles can be held steady and then reduced in the first 10 years of the next century.

May I make the points that John Dunster made:

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Sir Robert Smith: I think that many people accepted in the Georgian instance that return and the change of Government policy may have been a necessary and sensible move in the international circumstances, but does the hon. Gentleman not feel that, had the Government come to the House and had a debate, not on the specifics, but on the principle that, in cases where there was an unstable regime, this country would be willing to change its policy, public acceptance and the debate would have been totally different? Instead, the whole issue came out through a leak, and the Government claimed that they could not have a debate even on the principle of the issue because of security reasons. However, there would have been no security implications in debating the principle, if not the details.

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