COMMONS

New nuclear projects must benefit North Wales people and economy

26 July 2016

The Welsh Affairs Committee has published a report into the future of nuclear power in Wales. The report highlights the great potential for developing nuclear power in North Wales, at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd. However, the Government has more work to do to prove the financial viability of the proposed projects.

The Government and developers must also make sure that local communities benefit and that they mitigate the likely disruption major infrastructure developments would cause.

Chair's comment

On launching the report, Committee Chair David TC Davies commented:

"We know that proposals for new nuclear power plants cause concern amongst the general public. During this inquiry we have been impressed by the level of scrutiny of nuclear power and are reassured that the highest safety standards are followed. The key questions that need to be answered for future development of nuclear power at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd to be viable centre on value for money and local impact.

The Government must prove that the cost of any nuclear development is well understood and competitive with renewable sources. These costs must be made public in a format that can be easily understood.

There has to be a demonstrable benefit for the local community as well. Local businesses must form a key part of the supply-chain and be given sufficient information to allow this to happen. We must also make use of the many skilled nuclear workers currently based in Wales, and provide sufficient training to develop the next generation."

Wylfa Newydd

The Government should only build Wylfa Newydd if the strike price is below that agreed for the Hinkley Point C and competitive with renewable sources. They must be transparent on cost and provide a clear and comprehensible explanation of the lifetime cost of the project, including decommissioning and waste disposal.

During evidence, the Committee heard that nuclear power projects are often subject to cost and schedule over-runs. As the Government’s plans for future energy supply rely on Wylfa replacing current nuclear capacity in 2025, there must be well thought contingency plans to ensure the security of the UK’s energy supply.

Public confidence

There is a notable lack of public confidence in nuclear power following well-known recent and historical incidents. The Committee is encouraged that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has already conducted a thorough review based on lessons to be learnt from the Fukushima incident, and a number of measures have already been implemented.

The Committee is confident that the ONR can ensure that nuclear power in the UK will operate safely. That said, the Government generally, and Horizon Nuclear Power, who will operate Wylfa Newydd, must do more to educate the public about how nuclear power is regulated effectively and operates safely in the UK.

Development and operation of the Wylfa Newydd site must benefit local businesses and people. Horizon need to provide greater clarity on the skills they will require from the workforce to enable education and training to be provided. They should also seek to retain the skills of workers leaving Wylfa A. Given the potential resurgence of the nuclear industry in North Wales, consideration must also be given to setting up a campus of the National Nuclear College to give local people the greatest chance of being employed there.

Trawsfynydd

To diminish the impact of Trawsfynydd’s closure on the local area, an alternative decommissioning plan that would allow more continuous decommissioning of the site should be considered. The Government should also accelerate the process for identifying a suitable site for the geological disposal facility so that there is a long-term plan for storing waste safely and securely.

The Government’s objective for developing Small Modular Reactors (SMR) is welcomed. However, they must do more to understand the potential cost of any SMR project. They should work with local government and nuclear developers to identify potential sites, as well as sufficient skill levels in the local population and supply chain.

The Committee recommends that Trawsfynydd be designated as a site for a first-of-its kind SMR. The Government has indicated it will set out criteria for SMR sites later this year. In order to support the development of SMRs and the region of Gwynedd, the Government must move fast to make it clear what needs to be done for Trawsfynydd to meet these criteria and be designated as a site.

Further information

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