New Anglesey Nuclear Plant Tensions
The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) is opposed to any new nuclear build in Wales, including Wylfa on Anglesey, according to First Minister Rhodri Morgan.
Mr Morgan has again expressed his concerns about how nuclear waste will be disposed of safely and securely, and also fears that capital allocated to the new nuclear build programme will choke off key renewable projects.
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, yesterday confirmed that Wylfa on Anglesey is among the 10 preferred sites for new nuclear build.
This comes after carrying out strategic site assessments (SSA) to establish which locations across the UK are deemed suitable for the new generation of nuclear plants.
Meanwhile Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, sees the prospect of a Wylfa B station as contributing to a broad energy mix and good for local jobs.
Local MP Albert Owen, who has been leading the campaign for a new Wylfa B, sees this announcement as significant, given that new nuclear on Anglesey will boost jobs, keep existing and attract new skills locally, as well as making a vital contribution to a low carbon economy.
Mr Owen also thinks that nuclear and renewables are not, as Mr Morgan suggests, mutually exclusive, but rather complimentary.
Anglesey County Council has estimated that around £8 billion could be generated in the island economy with the building of Wylfa B.
Such a major infrastructure project will do far more than create the already eye-catching 9,000 jobs during the construction phase. It will also act as a huge tonic to the local hospitality and catering
industry and help boost the local property market.
Around 1,000 permanent jobs would be created once the nuclear plant was operational and then there are the potential spin-offs of new skills training and co-operation with the HE sector for research opportunities.
Meanwhile, the new joint venture Horizon Nuclear Power
has already started carrying out feasibility tests on land near the current Wylfa plant
Looking at the problem strategically, energy matters are largely reserved at Westminster when it comes to the really substantial power projects, with Cardiff having responsibility for projects below 50 MW, such as the occasional wind farm, tidal farm and micro generation schemes.
Given the strategic nature of both the challenges of energy security and achieving a low carbon economy, it would be a major shock if this policy area was devolved to Cardiff any time soon.
The fact is the UK has a challenge to fill a growing energy gap over the next decade or so, and the new nuclear programme can potentially contribute about 16GWe of baseload capacity, that will be lost as old coal plants are retired to comply with the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive and existing nuclear plants are defueled and decommissioned.
How we optimise the balance between encouraging new skills in an area of growing importance in power generation, the need to meet our climate change obligations, and ensuring security of energy supply for the UK is a crucial question, and the clock starts ticking now.
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