Industry: water, steel & energy

Vey, Peter (8 of 10). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2016-01-28, 2016-02-19, 2016-04-04, 2016-04-18, 2016-05-10, 2016-05-20

  • Interviewees

    Vey, Peter, 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Remarks on the Flowers Report [Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 'Nuclear Power and the Environment']: conclusion that there should be no more nuclear power development until solution had been found to the problem of nuclear waste; Flowers later considering matter resolved; UKAE chairman sent report before release, PV advice to respond to report publicly; anecdote about PV allowing pro-nuclear Financial Times science correspondent David Fishlock to view copy before release, subsequently publishing attacking the report; UKAEA press conference immediately after Brian Flowers' press conference, to his chagrin; PV initiative in issue winning him credit; [04:55] damning findings of Flowers' report around waste, plutonium and danger of fast reactor; UKAEA press conference allowing Walter Marshall and John Hill to respond; Brian Flowers viewed poorly within UKAEA for tone of report. [08:20] Remarks on: PV trying to give a professional front to UKAEA, anecdote about PV moving venue for press conferences from unsuitable Canada House atrium; interaction with journalists, lunches with journalists, UKAEA New Year's party; science and energy correspondents of national press, such as David Fishlock, important contact; Fishlock support for nuclear power; description of Fishlock interview style; [12:50] other journalists taking anti-nuclear stance, particularly those from 'New Scientist'; [14:20] UKAEA writing to editors of publications that printed unrealistic stories; BNFL's head of information Harold Bolter instigating an open information policy, reluctantly followed by CEGB; international categorisation of nuclear accidents; contingency plans in event of nuclear accident, outline of British response to Chernobyl accident. [19:45] Remarks on international bodies: mentions EURATOM, British Nuclear Forum, conferences in USA. [21:10] Remarks on CEGB nuclear fuel flask safety demonstration: growing concerns amongst environmentalists about train transport of nuclear fuel; CEGB demonstration of fuel flask integrity by train crash; John Baker initiative; expensive but destroying opposition to fuel transport; Walter Marshall impressed by Bechtel's arrangement of safety; [26:15] anecdote about Lady Marshall bursting into tears as train crashed; dates of PV career at UKAEA and CEGB. [27:40] Remarks on Three Mile Island accident: relevant to CEGB's pursuit of PWR programme; creating uncertainty about PWR. [30:40] Remarks on UKAEA: becoming more responsive to concerns about nuclear power and willing to debate issues in public; Walter Marshall not chairman for long enough to leave mark on organisation before going to CEGB. [32:00] Remarks on search for deep storage sites for high level waste: granite sites ideal due to water impermeability; UKAEA exploratory drilling for sites; local doctor becoming hero of objectors at a public inquiry; public meetings and inquiry to drilling site, care needed in commenting on issues; mentions another public inquiry in Newcastle; UKAEA bruised by encounters; drilling proposals being dropped; publicity setting out storage measures; difficult issue for industry with many possible solutions discussed. [38:00] Remarks on: dumping of low level waste at sea, protests gaining much publicity; PV rarely appearing on television, finding expeets more believable than public relations experts; concerns around Dounreay fast reactor; story about Maraget Thatcher visiting Dounreay, anecdote about press flown to site about antiquated DC-3 aircraft; Conservative Government support for nuclear energy, Margaret Thatcher support for Walter Marshall; PV enjoyment of work at UKAEA. [44:00] [cont' from 44:00] Remarks on PV feelings about work at UKAEA: interesting people and technology; UKAEA lacking resources of CEGB; challenges of role. [45:40] Remarks on joining CEGB: Walter Marshall asking PV to join CEGB; small pay rise; PV knowledge of CEGB from UKAEA, very large, resourceful, engineering dominated, high quality organisation; PV working at both UKAEA and CEGB for a short time; introductory discussions with Marshall and John Baker; PV knowing some CEGB staff already; Walter Marshall disagreements with previous director of publicity; PV getting on well with John Baker; [51:10] anecdote about personnel department not having details of PV; Walter Marshall not popular appointment at CEGB at time, not effecting PV working relationships; PV previous contact with John Baker over Sizewell B inquiry, support of UKAEA for CEGB. [53:50] Remarks on nuclear power in Britain: current problems with EDF programme, easier to repeat Sizewell B design; PV supporting PWR in 1980s, difficulties with complex AGRs, multitude of designs; CEGB sometimes making bad decision, example of varying success of oil fired power stations; opinions to AGR within UKAEA, British but problematic. [57:05] Comments on Walter Marshall: anecdote about Walter Marshall issuing PV priorities, wanting support over press issues; PV developing relations with Marshall, closer at CEGB; description of Marshall, poor, Welsh background, very intelligent; anecdote about Marshall's schooling; studied at Birmingham university, where he acquired an accent from emigree scientists; anecdote about speech coach advising Marshall not to try and normalise his accent as it made him distinctive; physically large; Marshall thinking methods; intellectually arrogant; [1:02:00] anecdote about Marshall origami at press conferences; poor judge of politicians; making many demands on PV time, challenges leading to lengthy debates; excellent after-dinner speaker, example of Marshall dominating a conference; Marshall seeing role at CEGB to push nuclear power programme; Marshall using lectures to push case; summer and Christmas parties at Goring to mix with important people; [1:06:50] Marshall's political naivety, opposing break up of CEGB, sacked by John Wakeham, making enemies of civil service and politicians; Marshall working on pet mathematical theory comparable with Fermat's last theorem, anecdote about Marshall working on maths during flights; death robbing nuclear power of most powerful supporter.

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