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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 07:29 GMT
Wales: Nuclear future?
Mark Hannaby
Mark Hannaby
The Politics Show Wales

Nuclear Power station
Nuclear waste has a long shelf life

A review of UK energy needs starting on Monday 23 January 2006, could herald a new generation of nuclear power stations.

That would prove highly controversial in Wales, where the Assembly Government has set itself against further nuclear reactors - but does not have the power to block them.

An earlier Energy Review, in 2003, backed energy conservation and renewable energy sources over nuclear options.

But the UK Government argues that declining gas and oil supplies and the need to cut carbon emissions to cope with global warming mean the issue needs to be re-examined.

Where waste is produced and stored around the UK

Welsh Assembly Government Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies has concerns about the cost of nuclear stations, their security, and the difficulties of disposing of highly toxic nuclear waste.

Mr Davies said he had made his position clear to UK Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, and would do so again in relation to the new Department of Trade and Industry led Review.

"We will make sure that our views are expressed and we hope they're taken on board as well," he said.

But the ultimate decision on whether to allow such power stations in Wales will rest with Westminster, not Cardiff Bay.

Plaid Cymru Energy Spokesman Alun Ffred Jones AM said: "Though Andrew Davies has made noises about approaching Government Ministers and so on in London, the fact is that there are no signs that the London Government is willing to allow the National Assembly to take control in this area.

"That is a fundamental weakness and shows the lack of democratic control that we have here in Wales."

Plaid Cymru agree with Labour in the Assembly that increasing energy needs shouldn't be met by nuclear reactors, but the Welsh Conservatives remain open-minded on the issue.

Conservative Economic Development spokesman Alun Cairns AM said : "I am not necessarily pro-nuclear, but I am not necessarily opposed to it either.

"It is an important debate that we need to have.

"From the evidence that has been presented so far it seems that safety is not the issue any more, but it is about whether it's cost effective or not. "

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the CBI last November that the new Energy Review would consider the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance spokesman Hugh Richards said new generation nuclear reactors would prove environmentally damaging and would take too long to have the impact on climate change which some politicians hope for.

He said: "The setting up of a second Energy Review suggests that the Prime Minister did not get the answer he wanted with the first Energy Review and he will keep holding Energy Reviews until he gets the answer that he wants, which includes facilitating nuclear power."

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