Nuclear Build at Wylfa, Anglesey Closer

The prospects for nuclear build at Wylfa on Anglesey look firmer following statements from Trade and Industry Secretary, Alistair Darling MP.

Ahead of the Government's Energy White Paper and new nuclear consultation, Mr Darling said the UK faces an urgent situation, and that it will be a race against time to make sure the lights do not go out over the coming years.

Wylfa Power Station will close in 2010 and the site on Anglesey is seen as one of the strongest candidates for the new fleet of more efficient nuclear power stations.

Clearly, there have been concerns over the back-end costs such as waste disposal and the normal time scale for nuclear plant construction, from 10 to 15 years.

Many point to the targets set by the Government for 20% of the UK's energy coming from renewable sources by 2020, and question whether these can be achieved if a new nuclear build programme goes ahead.

Mr Darling explained that unless there is new nuclear in the energy mix, we will only have about 7% of our energy sourced from nuclear by 2023. The only remaining nuclear power station at that time would be Sizewell B in Suffolk.

It is understood that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is also in favour of a significant role for nuclear in the UK energy mix going forward. This has to be a very positive step for new nuclear build at Wylfa.

With large coal plants having to close under strict EU regulations, the UK will certainly edge closer to achieving its 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, but our energy gap will grow unsustainably.

The twin challenges are security of energy supply and climate change. It now seems the consensus is emerging that new nuclear build at Wylfa can make a significant contribution to reducing the energy gap and to low carbon power generation.

Following on from two White Papers, in 1998 and 2003, the government produced another Energy review in 2006. This review concluded that "nuclear energy has a role in the future UK generating mix alongside other low carbon options."

Then in February the High Court upheld an appeal from Greenpeace that the Energy review in 2006 had not been conducted properly andspecifically had not addressed the key issues of economics and waste disposal in nuclear energy.

This does not detract from the fact that the UK needs a secure, dependable baseload supply of electricity. Such a supply cannot be assured from wind farms as they are subject to weather patterns, such as warm days or frosty nights when there is no wind.

Eon will shortly release information on its plans for licensing a reactor design and the scene will then be set across the UK for rivals to make their case for these long term energy contracts.

Going forward it is clear that the European energy giants, Eon and EdF Energy have sent strong signals of their intention to enter the market for new nuclear build.

EdF Energy Chief Executive, Vincent de Rivaz has signalled that he is trying to secure pre-licensing approval from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate for the EPR reactor.

On Anglesey, representatives from both Eon and EDF Energy have held discussions with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, (NDA) who own UK civil nuclear sites including the Wylfa location. Such interest strenthens the chance of nuclear build at Wylfa.

The future of the Anglesey economy, climate change and security of supply in the UK are all closely entwined as we move forward from here.

An important area in this whole process will be the avoidance of long drawn out public inquiries which caused the Sizewell B project to overun.

New regulations will mean that arguments against the principle of nuclear energy for electricity generation cannot be used to slow down local planning matters. The merits of using nuclear will be a national and strategic issue, not one to be used at the local level.

With the Anglesey population largely in favour of a Wylfa B, the prospects look good for new nuclear build at Wylfa.

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