20 April 2006

North 'will remain nuclear-free'


20/04/2006 - 18:30:56

Northern Secretary Peter Hain tonight ruled out the prospect of a nuclear power station being built in the North.

As Derry councillors listened to a proposal from businessman Robert Andrews to build a plant in the city, the British government moved to destroy any notion that the North would lose its status as a nuclear-free region.

A government spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has already made it clear that nuclear power is not going to happen in Northern Ireland.

“It would be ultimately his decision, even though we have no expectation that Derry Council would want to go down this route in this case.”

Mr Andrews is proposing a plant that could generate about 2,000 megawatt hours.

To generate the same amount of power using wind, he claimed, there would need to be 300,000 wind farms throughout Ireland.

The businessman claimed the construction of a nuclear power plant in Derry would meet the North’s energy needs and provide 500 stable jobs.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: “I believe from a technical point of view that it is safe, it is efficient, it is very profitable.

“For example, if a nuclear power station were in Derry, it would produce 500 permanent jobs.

"Nuclear power stations last 60 years, so that’s 500 jobs for 60 years.”

The plan was rejected by SDLP members on Derry City Council and by the Green Party in the North.

SDLP councillor Helen Quigley said: “Any moves to assess or propose possible nuclear sites in Northern Ireland would be unacceptable to the Irish people, who have for years supported the campaign for the closure of the Sellafield nuclear plant.”

Green Party activist Peter Doran also claimed the siting of a nuclear plant in Derry would place people living in the city at greater risk from an international terrorist attack.

The British government’s statement will be welcomed by a group of councils on both sides of the border, which expressed concerns yesterday about proposals to build a new generation of power stations in England, Scotland and Wales.

The All-Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to bin the proposal and also sought a guarantee that no nuclear plant would be built in the North.

SDLP Assembly member Margaret Ritchie, who is a member of the All-Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum, welcomed the British government’s statement.

The South Down MLA said: “I strongly welcome the Secretary of State’s categoric reassurance that a nuclear plant will never be built in Northern Ireland.

“We have already seen the mistakes and errors that have been made at Sellafield and would not want to see those repeated on this side of the Irish Sea.

“The forum wants to see an end to the reprocessing of nuclear waste at Sellafield and the transportation of waste in the Irish Sea. We would like to see the full decommissioning of buildings at Sellafield, and we are firmly against plans for a new generation of power stations across Britain.

“We would urge Mr Hain to impress on his cabinet colleagues the need to ensure there are no new nuclear power stations built in England, Scotland and Wales. We would like him to impress on them to pursue renewable energy sources instead, like he is doing in Northern Ireland.”

Peter Doran, of the Green Party in the North, welcomed the statement. He said: “We recognise Peter Hain has shown a personal and deep commitment to renewable energy, an agenda he shares with the Green Party.

“We are happy he is the gatekeeper in Northern Ireland at a time when mavericks in Derry are advocating nuclear power.”

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