Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Nuclear 'step forward' for island

Wylfa nuclear power station
Wyfla's nuclear reactor is set to shut down in 2010

A decision to put forward Wylfa on Anglesey as a potential site for a new nuclear power plant has been applauded by some politicians as a positive step.

The UK government has confirmed it expects the site to be one of four locations nominated by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The current nuclear reactor on the site is set to shutdown in 2010.

However, opponents say they will continue to fight any plans to build a new nuclear plant on the island.

County council leader Phil Fowlie said: "Today's announcement is fantastic news for Anglesey, especially given the current economic downturn facing us.

"Although there is still a long way to go, this news has brought new nuclear build on Anglesey a step closer to reality."

It could take until 2025 until any new power station is up and running

Mr Fowlie added: "We will now continue to work to secure a long term future for the Wylfa site as well as ensuring that Anglesey remains an important centre for energy generation so that we can realise our full potential as an 'Energy Island'."

Ieuan Wyn Jones, the local AM who is also deputy first minister of the Welsh Assembly Government and leader of Plaid Cymru, was cautious in his response.

He said it was important to wait to see whether a company would make an application for a nuclear power station on the site.

"There are job implications here, but what we need to do is see whether a company is interested and then we need to consider that very carefully," he said.

Anglesey Aluminium

The possibility of a new nuclear power station would come too late to help save jobs at Anglesey Aluminium, he added.

"What we're hoping there is that we can have an extension to the life of the existing Wylfa station, say to 2012 which allowed us to have a short-term contract for Anglesey Aluminium," he said.

This is spin from Gordon Brown, and an attempt to get a good news story out in the middle of all the bad news
Dylan Morgan, People Against Wylfa B

"The company would then have to look to a new station, possibly a biomass station, as the gap between the existing nuclear power station and a new one is too large for them," he added.

MP Albert Owen said the announcement was a "positive step" for the island's economy.

He said the island had the "skills base and the potential to be at the forefront of low carbon electricity generation, with nuclear being a big part of that development programme".

"It is a development programme that could attract billions of pounds of investment to the economy in contracting, generation, research and development and also indirect jobs," he said.

"I have always made it clear that we need nuclear as part of the Welsh and UK low carbon generating capacity and it could bring major economic benefits," he added.

It is a development programme that could attract billions of pounds of investment to the economy
Albert Owen MP

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said any power station planning application would go to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The assembly government does not have the devolved power to have a role in the decision but does have a say on nuclear power policy when it provides views during the drafting of the UK national nuclear energy policy statement.

"Any nuclear operator applying to build a new nuclear power station in Wales would be expected to provide full information to us, " he added.

Largest employers

"Our job would be to collate the information from all of the relevant statutory bodies relating to the environment, transport etc in the normal way and in the light of our energy policy."

The present reactor at Wylfa began producing electricity in 1971, and was the last magnox plant of its kind to be built in the UK.

Around 800 people still work at the power station, making it one of Anglesey's largest employers.

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that up to 9,000 workers could be employed in building a new plant, while an estimated 1,000 staff would be needed to run any new operation.

A formal announcement on nominations for new sites is expected to be made next week.

New reactor

In December, the power company RWE nPower announced that it had secured a connection to the National Grid to supply 3.6 GW of power from any new plant at Wylfa.

The company has also agreed an option to buy farmland next to the current plant, which could be used to build a new reactor.

But Dylan Morgan, from the campaign group People Against Wylfa B, insisted that there are still no firm plans in place for a new reactor on Anglesey.

"This is spin from Gordon Brown, and an attempt to get a good news story out in the middle of all the bad news that is around at the moment," he said.

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