Hitachi nuclear plant "will regenerate city"
BUILDING one of the country's biggest nuclear power stations in South Gloucestershire will create 1,000 new permanent jobs leading to a major boost for the Bristol economy.
Japanese electrical firm Hitachi said its plans for Oldbury power station will also lead to 6,000 construction jobs while building work is carried out to make the plant four times its current size.
And there is the belief that the project will trigger a huge economic boom in the area around the Severn Channel.
Tim Davies, who is head of the Bristol office of property firm Colliers International, said it will lead to a dramatic increase in business in the area.
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Mr Davies also believes the project will help stimulate renewed interest in the neighbouring Deep Sea Container Terminal project at Bristol Port which is currently stalled because of the poor economic conditions.
Mr Davies said: "Avonmouth and the surrounding area has been a sleeping giant for too long.
"But there are signs that national and even international interest could once again be focused on the region's transport infrastructures."
He added: "The scale of this project coupled with improving economic fortunes in the vicinity underlines the importance of the Deep Sea Container Terminal.
"Once it gets the go ahead Avonmouth has the potential to become one of the largest and busiest freight ports in Europe.
"The terminal is closer to more inland container destinations than any other deep water dock which will mean savings for the rail and road networks.
"Avonmouth enjoys direct rail and motorway access from the port which means warehouse and distribution sites will be at a premium."
Hitachi has agreed to buy Horizon Nuclear Power – which has the rights to build reactors in North Wales and in Oldbury – from its German owners E.ON and RWE npower.
The Government and unions welcomed the deal, which could see the new nuclear power station built within the next ten years.
It is expected to generate power equivalent to up to 14 million homes over 60 years.
Hitachi has also signed supply chain deals with UK engineering firms Rolls-Royce and Babcock International and has pledged to establish a factory.
The Horizon venture was set up in 2009 as part of the drive to meet the UK's carbon reduction goals, but RWE and E.ON put the business up for sale in March after Germany's move to abandon nuclear power in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster.
Doubts have grown about the private sector's commitment to the UK's nuclear programme, but Prime Minister David Cameron said the announcement was a "decades-long, multi-billion-pound vote of confidence" in the UK.
He said: "It will support up to 12,000 jobs during construction and thousands more permanent highly skilled roles once the new power plants are operational, as well as stimulating exciting new industrial investments in the UK's nuclear supply chain."
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said: "Hitachi bring with them decades of expertise, and are responsible for building some of the most advanced nuclear reactors on time and on budget, so I welcome their commitment to helping build a low carbon secure energy future for the UK.
"I particularly welcome Hitachi's firm commitment to involve the UK supply chain and local workforce.
"New nuclear isn't only about keeping the lights on and emissions down, it's an industrial strategy with big potential wins."
Environmental campaigners in the nearby village of Shepperdine said they were dismayed by the news.
A spokesman for the Shepperdine Against Nuclear Energy group said: "We are sad that after E.on and RWE have decided to give up building new nuclear in the UK that Hitachi have decided to buy the sites that are owned by Horizon Nuclear Power.
"We do not want the Shepperdine site to become another Fukushima.
"We are in touch with various environmental bodies and a Japanese labour union called Doro Chiba to try and get a full understanding of what they know about Hitachi.
"We understand that the reactor will have to go through the full Generic Design Assessment and this will take up to four years.
"It will be interesting to see if the Government cave in to the energy companies and guarantee the massive subsidy that will be needed to build any new nuclear power stations in the UK."
Matthew Riddle, who is the councillor for the area on South Gloucestershire Council, said: "I do welcome the fact that an announcement has been made because it does remove the uncertainly locally that Eon's decision to sell Horizon had caused. There are better sites in the UK for new nuclear power stations, sites that do not need cooling towers, but if Parliament has decided we are to get a new one at Oldbury then there is a big prize locally in having 800-900 new high quality jobs in the Thornbury area over the next 60 years and that will greatly boost its prosperity.
'The previous owners made a commitment that the cooling towers would not be any taller than 70 metres, about the height of the existing station, and I do hope the new owners will keep that commitment, otherwise there will be a big outcry locally and any going back on that, runs the risk of turning those supporters of a new power station, against the plans.
"Whatever the nationality of the developer and operator of the new nuclear power station, they will be governed by the UK's very high nuclear safety standards, which are the highest in the world. I have lived near the existing Oldbury station all my life and I have no problem whatsoever in living so close to it."