West braced for nuclear future

Western Daily Press, Friday, January 23, 2009

Three reactors could be built in the West in a new wave of nuclear power stations with Oldbury to be nominated for a plant.

The South Gloucestershire site would join Hinkley in Somerset, where two reactors are being planned - although anti-nuclear campaigners yesterday vowed to fight the plans.

Gordon Brown indicated his firm support for the new generation of nuclear power when he visited Sellafield, in Cumbria, where there could be two new plants.

On Tuesday, Climate Change and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband will ask for nominations for potential sites and publish the criteria used to assess suitability.

Yesterday, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said it expected to nominate land near Oldbury, Sellafield, Wylfa on Anglesey and Bradwell in Essex. It is auctioning the land, which would be worth much more as a new nuclear site than for any other use.

The NDA will not develop new nuclear plants itself, nor apply for planning permission, but believes nomination will enhance the value of the land, generating more income to pay for the decommissioning programme.

Acting chief executive Richard Waite said: "Our aim is to secure value from our assets for the benefit of the taxpayer."

Mr Brown said: "Nuclear is crucial to our low-carbon future; it is crucial to our energy security and at the same time it represents a massive opportunity for the UK economy and jobs.

"Industry are investing billions into the UK economy, jobs are being created and supply chain opportunities are developing.

"The NDA's announcement on potential new build sites is good news."

Derek Simpson, joint leader of the Unite union, who joined Mr Brown on his visit yesterday to Sellafield, said pushing ahead with nuclear would address the concerns of ordinary people who wanted cheaper household bills.

The Government claims each new nuclear power station could be worth £2 billion to its region, bring 9,000 jobs during construction and employ 1,000 skilled workers when operational.

West anti-nuclear campaigners were shocked at the nomination of Oldbury, saying the NDA had gone beyond its brief of cleaning up sites.

Jim Duffy, coordinator of the Stop Oldbury campaign, said there were health risks linked to the existing reactor, which is 40 years old and has just been given a two-year life extension.

He said a new reactor would pour more radioactive waste into the River Severn, which was likely to add to the local cancer and leukaemia toll.

"The other risks are from terrorism - a fully fuel-laden airliner diverted from Bristol of Cardiff airports could cause unthinkable damage to a big target such as a nuclear plant," Mr Duffy said.

"Even the Government's Sustainable Development Commission says that replacing all our old reactors will reduce carbon emissions by a feeble four per cent.

"It's just not worth the £5 billion cost to build each reactor, of which the public will pick up some of the future bill."

Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Simon Hughes said: "Nuclear power is an outdated and superficial answer to Britain 's energy needs.

"It is dangerous and expensive and it won't fill the energy gap or help the fight against climate change."

Hinkley is now owned by French electricity giant EDF, after it bought British Energy, which had previously said it was interested in building two new reactors there, and two at Sizewell B in Suffolk.

The nuclear site is at Berkeley in Gloucestershire is being decommissioned.


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Page Updated 25-Jan-2009