§ 11.10 a.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what study they are making of the possible incorporation of nuclear propulsion systems in surface naval vessels.]
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, certain studies of the military possibilities of the application of nuclear propulsion to surface warships have already been carried under the Ministry of Defence and more are being undertaken. The subjects under study include the type of reactor which would best be suited to military needs and how a development programme 587 might be set up and managed. We are also reviewing the assessments of the advantages and disadvantages of adopting nuclear propulsion for surface warships. There are prospects of considerable operational advantages from increased range, flexibility and speed, but there may be disadvantages such as increased complexity and upkeep, and cost will of course be a material factor. This work is proceeding actively and the results are being considered by a high-level group under the Chief Scientific Adviser. Their conclusions will provide a basis on which the Government can decide on the course to be followed.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his Answer? May I say that from my imperfect knowledge I would not dissent from a great deal of what the noble Lord has said about the pros and cons of this particular application of nuclear propulsion? May I ask, however, whether he can assure us that these studies are being taken forward with all possible speed, and can he tell us how they are going? Are they yet at the feasibility study stage?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I can promise the noble Earl that they are being pressed forward as fast as they can be. He will be aware that some of these studies were taking place or were initiated before he left office. We have not yet reached the stage of the feasibility study but it is a difficult and complicated matter. It would not be right to hurry it, but I have myself gone into this deeply to find out the answers and am satisfied that it is being regarded as a matter of great importance and therefore of urgency.