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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 15:17 GMT
Chapelcross comes to a crossroads
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website
South of Scotland reporter

Chapelcross towers
The four towers at Chapelcross will come down this year
The towers of the Chapelcross nuclear plant have been part of the landscape near Annan for almost half a century.

They will disappear this year as the power station - which closed in 2004 - enters a decommissioning process which will last for decades.

The community in the area surrounding the plant has been weighing up the economic and environmental impact.

A range of future options - from a research centre to a new nuclear plant - have been put under the microscope.

A key organisation in mapping out what local people would like to see replace the four-reactor site is the Chapelcross Stakeholders Group.

"What it has given to the area over a lot of years is good quality jobs and a lot of income into the area," said chairperson Ian Lindsay.

"I think, in reality, that in all of the areas that have got nuclear power stations the feelings are very much the same - they would like new nuclear power stations there."

Chapelcross factfile
Built on former Second World War airfield
Scotland's first commercial nuclear power station
Officially opened May, 1959
Four-reactor Magnox power station
Ceased generation 2004

At the very least, they want to see the site left in a condition to allow the construction of a new station.

Chapelcross' Labour councillor Sean Marshall, who also works at the plant, reckons there are good arguments for its continued use.

"It has been there for nearly 50 years, it has got good infrastructure, it is a licensed site and it has got widespread community support," he said.

That is a view echoed by Lib Dem councillor Tony Turner whose ward covers the heart of nearby Annan.

"It just makes common sense to think about a smaller plant or something similar," he said.

"These are well-paid, professional jobs and any shutdown or loss of jobs is going to have an impact on the local economy."

That potential impact prompted Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway and partner groups to form an organisation to look at the effect on the area around Annan, Gretna and Lockerbie.

The Corridor Regeneration Strategy (CoReS) steering group wants diversification of the Chapelcross site to be a top priority - a view backed by south of Scotland Green MSP Chris Ballance.

Chapelcross towers
A number of different proposals are being studied for the plant

"In the long term future, I would encourage the development of some sort of institute of nuclear decommissioning using both Chapelcross and the skills of the workers there," he said.

Dumfries' Labour MSP Dr Elaine Murray, however, recently pushed for her party to allow for the possibility of new nuclear builds.

"The arguments of those who oppose nuclear power are 20 years out of date," she said.

"The new technologies are far safer and produce only a small fraction of the waste produced by the old power stations like Chapelcross."

Labour colleague, Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, has more reservations about a nuclear future.

"I think, in all honesty, the site definitely has a future that is energy-related but whether that will be nuclear is, to a certain extent, questionable," he said.

Chapelcross is now owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which says it will be guided by local opinion in deciding the future.

The feelings of stakeholder groups will be fed through to government before it ultimately makes the decision on what will replace those familiar towers and the rest of the plant.


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