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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Wind farm call for nuclear site
The station adds up to 20m annually to the economy
Greenpeace is calling for two nuclear power stations that are to close earlier than planned, to be replaced by local offshore wind farms.

The Chapelcross nuclear power station in south-west Scotland is to shut in 2005, three years earlier than originally envisaged.

The plant, which employs 430 staff, will then be decommissioned over the next decade.

The decision was confirmed by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) management at the plant near Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, on Friday.

Offshore wind farm
An offshore wind farm

BNFL has carried out an economic review following a collapse in electricity prices and decided to bring forward the shutdown.

A second power station, Calder Hall at Sellafield in Cumbria, is also to close.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Emma Gibson said offshore wind farms could provide cheap and clean electricity "without the risk of nuclear accidents and without producing radioactive waste".

"Britain's offshore wind resource is enormous and just waiting to be harnessed," she added.

Prices drop

Half of the Chapelcross workforce will be kept on for defuelling and decommissioning after production ceases in March 2005, giving employment until the end of the decade.

Works manager Bob Clayton said the over-riding factor behind the decision was financial.

"We've seen a substantial drop in wholesale electricity prices in the last couple of years.

"The station has a relatively small output and relatively high costs and that, aligned with the fact that the Ministry of Defence has given us notice of their intention to terminate their contract for nuclear material, means that the site is no longer economic to operate," he said.

BNFL said it had no plans to build a new nuclear power station on the same site.

'Not unexpected'

Energy Minister Brian Wilson told BBC Radio Scotland: "Notice of closure is not unexpected and will give time for the local economies to adjust.

"I understand that the trade unions are already proposing that nuclear should be replaced by another nuclear station at Chapelcross.

"While there is no proposal from anyone to do this, I hope these views will encourage a sensible debate about our future energy needs."

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson: "Sensible debate"

Dumfries Labour MP Russell Brown said he was disappointed but that closure was "almost inevitable" following the reduction of work at Chapelcross over the past year.

"I think some of the difficulties on the site, especially in the past 12 months, have led to the situation being more closely looked at and at the end of the day, it is economic viability," he said.

Friends of the Earth Scotland chief executive Kevin Dunion said: "The closure of Chapelcross should intensify our drive for increased energy efficiency and clean renewables not tired old demands for yet more nuclear.

"We've got twice as much energy capacity as we need in Scotland at the moment. Another nuclear station is the last thing Scotland needs."

Rods accident

The plant is 41 years old and where modern operations close valves at the press of a button, the complex relies on engineers to do the job manually by turning a wheel.

Safety flaws were highlighted last July when two dozen fuel rods slipped and fell to the floor.

The accident happened during a refuelling operation for reactor three.

A report into the accident blamed procedural and hardware deficiencies.

HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate made several recommendations to improve safety at the plant.

Most of the electricity it produces is sent to England, but it has been working under capacity for some time.

Chapelcross contributes 15m to 20m to the Dumfries and Galloway economy annually.

Colin Mackinnon reports
"Chapelcross was scheduled to close in 2008"
See also:

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