Wales

Wylfa Newydd: will Anglesey profit from nuclear plant?

Cai Owen
Image caption Cai Owen is one of those hoping to benefit from a new Wylfa Newydd power station

Seventeen-year-old Cai Owen is learning to weld at Coleg Menai on Anglesey and next year he will be looking for work.

"Obviously with Wylfa now, all of us on the course will be hoping to get a job in the future...I think it's important that people in Wales get the chance," he said.

Formal plans have been submitted for the proposed £12bn Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station and the UK government has confirmed it is negotiating with the developer over funding.

While environmental and local groups are readying their objections, others on Anglesey are hoping for a boost to the economy.

The development could bring 8,500 jobs during the construction phase, and around 875 well-paid permanent jobs when it is up and running. The question is whether local people are ready to make the most of the opportunities which are now looking more likely.

Coleg Menai, which is in Llangefni, is responding to that question by expanding its engineering facilities with financial support from Horizon nuclear power, the Japanese-owned company behind Wylfa Newydd.

Dr Ian Rees, executive director for business development at the college's parent group Grwp Llandrillo Menai, conceded that there was still more work to do.

"Are we ready? No. But we're getting there. We have been talking with Horizon for a few years now on their skill requirement and when they need those skills," he said.

"And we're talking on two fronts. There's the construction phase... But also we've been talking about the engineering phase - for technicians, for apprentices."

Image caption Local company director Mark Blackwell is supportive of the project

Local company DU Construction has already felt the benefit of the nuclear plans. Their work for Horizon has included building bat barns to re-house wildlife displaced by the construction.

Director Mark Blackwell welcomed this week's developments.

"It means we can plan for the future. We can invest...we can build for the future and have a bit more certainty," he said.

Local politicians say it is important that there is a legacy for the whole community.

Gareth Winston Roberts, from Amlwch Town Council, said they were supportive of Wylfa - but not at any price.

"We're having discussions at the moment with Horizon about local employment and the plan four or five years down the line, of different trades, not all apprentices, not all engineers."

While some economic commentators argue that taxpayer investment in a foreign nuclear company is the wrong economic as well as environmental priority, the trainee welders at Coleg Menai are hopeful the project will happen.

"[There's not many] places round here to do welding. You've got to travel further," said student Osian Jones. "The more jobs that come in, the more opportunities."

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