Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 13:22 UK

Inquiry call into waste from Anglesey nuclear power

Wylfa nuclear power station
A new nuclear reactor at Wylfa would replace the existing plant

A call for a public inquiry into how to deal with waste from a planned Anglesey nuclear power station has been backed by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Proposals for a new reactor at Wylfa are welcomed by local politicians like AM Ieuan Wyn Jones and MP Albert Owen, but condemned by environmentalists.

However, the assembly cabinet has been, and remains, generally opposed to nuclear power.

But an assembly government spokesperson said it would engage with the project.

She said this would ensure maximum local and regional benefit from the building and operating of the new power station.

The decision on Wylfa will be a matter for the UK government and the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) planning process.

We... support the call for a public inquiry on dealing with the waste arising from new nuclear build on the grounds of concern over the safety and security of its management
Welsh Assembly Government

The assembly government spokesperson said: "We have a way to go in justifying to the public what must be done in dealing with future nuclear waste.

"We therefore support the call for a public inquiry on dealing with the waste arising from new nuclear build on the grounds of concern over the safety and security of its management."

It also remained of the view that exploiting potential for renewable energy "reduces the need for other, more hazardous, forms of low carbon energy and obviates the need for new nuclear power stations in Wales."

Mr Jones, who is also Plaid Cymru leader, and deputy first minister and the economy and transport minister, said it would be "essential" that local businesses benefit from contracts on the site and supply chain opportunities.

He said these would need to "built into" any planning consents.

Wylfa nuclear power station
Friends of the Earth says nuclear problems have not been solved

Mr Jones added: "Given the job losses that we have had on the island during the last 18 months this economic boost would be very welcome."

Waste concern

However, his view is in contrast to the position taken by his party, and a Plaid spokesman said: "Plaid remains opposed to nuclear power."

But the Plaid spokesman added that the party "understands" that Mr Jones, the prospective general election candidate, Dylan Rees, and party members on the island have to "give full consideration to the needs of its communities and economy" when taking a view on any developments.

Albert Owen MP said the announcement by Horizon Nuclear Power that Anglesey was its "number one site" for a new station was "a vote of confidence" in the island's community and workforce.

He said: "It is also a vote of confidence in the UK government's energy policy on new nuclear and its vision in developing a low carbon future.

"Getting to this point did not happen by accident, but by design; through strong campaigning."

Mr Owen added: "Safety is, of course, top of the agenda, as is the economic impact with the new skills and thousands of new jobs such a development would bring, in creating apprenticeships, jobs for life in construction and generating jobs through the supply chain.

"Being the number one site means additional benefits. For example, a stimulator can be based on the island and used as a model for other locations and become a centre of excellence for the industry".

Gordon James, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, condemned the scheme and Mr Jones's support for it.

He said it would be a "dangerous distraction", diverting political attention and scarce resources from better solutions.

He said no-one had yet "convincingly addressed the massive problems of hazardous waste, terrorism and nuclear proliferation" and said that "allowing this nuclear power station to go ahead would seriously undermine democracy in Wales".

"This decision would be imposed upon us by the unelected and unaccountable Planning Infrastructure Commission (IPC), against the wishes of the Welsh Assembly Government.

"We find it incredible that Ieuan Wyn Jones can support this."

Legal threat

Greenpeace said the nuclear industry could not change the fact that nuclear power is "eye-wateringly expensive" and that there's "no solution to dealing with nuclear waste".

"These are very real problems to which the nuclear industry has no answers," he said.

Friends of the Earth warned the UK government it was likely to take legal action against what it calls "the seriously flawed IPC process."

Conservatives said the development would "of course be welcome news" for the local economy, but "we should not pretend it will provide a quick fix to the current economic difficulties facing the island.

A Tory spokesperson said: "An earlier decision by the UK government on new nuclear power stations might also have saved jobs at Anglesey Aluminium which relied on the plant for power."

Welsh Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Mike German said his party opposed nuclear power and believed "the massive investment required would be better spent on creating jobs that will deliver low carbon energy quickly, safely, cheaply and reliably for the area and Wales".

Mr German said: "We've seen a lack of ambition from this government in pushing for cleaner forms of energy production that can provide jobs for people in the area.

"Nuclear power is not the answer to Wales' energy needs as there are plenty of unseen costs - the cost to people's health and the environment - which cannot be paid for."

He said: "We've seen a lack of ambition from this government in pushing for cleaner forms of energy production that can provide jobs for people in the area."

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