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Council backs new nuclear build as Heysham 1 gets 'extended life'

Author: 
John Freeman
Lancaster City Council has backed the building of new nuclear power faciliities at Heysham - just as Heysham 1 power station has been granted a five-year life extension, meaning it can continue to generate electricity until 2019.

Earlier this week, Full Council approved a recommendation from Andrew Dobson, Head of Regeneration and Policy, supporting nuclear new build projects at Heysham "in principle subject to mitigation of any adverse effects".

Almost every councillor, except the Greens and two independents, voted in favour of the recommendation, even though the Liberal Democrats have a national policy opposing the building of new nuclear power stations.

Meanwhile, Heysham power station owners EDF Energy took the major step of extending the lifetime of Heysham 1 nuclear power station in Lancashire by five years this week. They also announced the life cycle of their station in Hartlepool would be extended.

The company says it has completed the necessary technical and economic evaluation that will see the plant, one of the area’s largest employers, continue operating until at least 2019.

“This is great news for all of us at Heysham 1 and for everyone in the local community," argues Ian Stewart, Heysham 1’s station director.

“The decision means we can continue to provide highly skilled jobs and bring major investment to the area. It also shows that EDF Energy recognises the professionalism and commitment of our staff in safely supplying low carbon electricity for more than 30 years.”

“The conclusions of the assessments are that it is technically feasible to extend the lives of the stations," says Andy Spurr, managing director existing nuclear EDF Energy, "and that they will be able to operate safely and profitably for at least an additional five years.

“Investment of circa £50m per station will be required over the next few years to support the extended lives of the plants, but the financial assessments show that there is a strong business case to invest in the plants to extend their lives.

“The station now has the green light to continue operations through to 2019, maintaining employment for over 1,100 people and providing low carbon electricity to around 1,500,000 homes around the country.”

The Council's backing for a new nuclear build at Heysham was spearheaded by Labour Councillor Abbot Bryning. Green Party councillor John Whitelegg argued in favour of an amendment opposing support, stating nuclear power was expensive and dangerous, high risk, usually over budget and usually delivered several years late and is associated with serious health risks (such as leukaemia).

He argued that the Council should instead should support wind and wave power and other renewable energy technologies, all of which, he feels, have far greater potential to create jobs and minimise risks - but his ammendment was lost by a large majority.

"All Labour, LibDem and Conservative councillors voted for new nuclear build,  as did all Independents with the exception of Councillor Joyce Taylor and Councillor Marsland," John told virtual-lancaster.

"I'm very disappointed indeed that Council has opted to support something that is intrinsically dangerous and high risk when there are many alternatives capable ofgenerating large amounts of electricity that are associated with trivial and insignificant risks.

"Nuclear power will not create the jobs or the attractive image that the district needs," he feels.

John also says he found it strange that Liberal Democrat leader of the Council, Stuart Langhorn, who was also a parliamentary candidate in the last general election spoke strongly in favour of nuclear new build. This seemed at odds with his apparent support for the LibDem anti-nuclear build position at the General Election in May, when the Party manifesto declared that plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations should be rejected, based on the evidence that nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy.

The Heysham station employs around 500 full time staff, as well as 150 full time staff from contract partners and the wage bill alone is an estimated £30m a year which goes into the local economy.

Heysham 1 has produced some 150 terawatt hours (TWh) of generation since first supplying the National Grid in 1983.

Commenting on the extension to Heysham 1's life cycle, Tim Davison, Senior Trade Union representative for Unite and National Joint Council Chairperson, said that staff within EDF Energy are delighted with the news.

Mr Davison said: "The announcement of the life extensions at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool power stations is excellent for all of the staff involved, both on and off the sites, who have worked so hard to achieve this result, good for the environment in providing low carbon energy and good for the UK economy in delivering security of supply in the energy market.

“In addition, the Trades Unions welcome the ongoing commitments given by EDF Energy today to continue with the major investments across the UK fleet to secure life extensions at all eight of the nuclear power stations.

“By providing the longer term security of employment of our highly skilled workforce which these life extensions bring will put us in good stead to retain, recruit and develop the staff and skills required to operate the existing fleet and to meet the requirements of the new nuclear build programme".
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