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17/01/2019

Huge Anglesey nuclear power scheme suspended

Words: Roger Milne
Wylfa Newydd / Horizon Power

Work on a huge new nuclear power station on Anglesey has been suspended, a move with potentially dire consequences for North Wales’s economy.

Japanese company Hitachi has halted work on its £20 billion Wylfa Newydd plant because of investment issues.

Wales’s economy secretary Ken Skates said he hoped that the plant would not be scrapped entirely.

“If it is paused then work must begin immediately across governments and with local government and with the business community in ensuring that there are job opportunities in the short term whilst we find a new investor for the project,” he is reported as saying.

He has also suggested that the UK and Welsh governments should make more money available for the North Wales Growth Deal if the plug is eventually pulled on the project.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the wholly owned Hitachi subsidiary behind the Anglesey scheme, had been hoping to begin site preparation work for the 2,900-megawatt plant shortly.

Anglesey County Council had approved this move, but Welsh ministers are now considering whether to call in the plans.

In a statement Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive officer of Horizon Nuclear Power, said: “We have been in close discussions with the UK Government, in cooperation with the government of Japan, on the financing and associated commercial arrangements for our project for some years now.  I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned.

“As a result we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project until a solution can be found. In the meantime, we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

He added: “Clearly this will have a significant impact for all involved with our project. We will also engage closely with the many international and UK-based stakeholders who have strongly supported the project’s development, especially our lead host community of Anglesey, represented by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and Welsh government.”


Reaction:

The Isle of Anglesey County Council voiced disappointment at the news. Major projects and economic development portfolio holder Carwyn Jones insisted: “Wylfa remains the UK’s best site for new nuclear build and we remain a willing host community. These are critical factors, which have been acknowledged by senior Hitachi executives during ‘face to face’ meetings.

“As a council, we will therefore leave no stone unturned in working with Horizon, their Hitachi parent company and both the UK and Welsh governments to secure at the earliest opportunity positive and satisfactory outcomes for all concerned. We remain firmly committed to a new development at Wylfa.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted: “Hitachi’s decision to suspend work is extremely worrying for North Wales and the UK. Our discussions with Horizon will continue with urgency, but we need the UK Government to step up and do everything possible to secure this project. We'll continue to press them to do so.

Economy secretary Ken Skates said: “This is very disappointing and worrying news for Anglesey, North Wales and the UK.

“The potential economic benefits of this project are huge and over the past few days I have sought reassurances from the UK Government that they are doing everything possible to bring this project to Anglesey

“However, fundamentally we need urgent assurance from UK government about its intentions in respect of securing a funding model that will deliver major infrastructure projects like Wylfa Newydd.”

Yesterday (17 January) UK business secretary Greg Clark told MPs: “Across the world, a combination of factors including tighter safety regulations, have seen the cost of most new nuclear projects increase, as the cost of alternatives has fallen, and the cost of construction has risen.
“This has made the challenge of attracting private finance into projects more difficult than ever, with investors favouring other technologies that are less capital-intensive upfront, quicker to build, and less exposed to cost overruns.”

For the first time he revealed what the government was prepared to offer the project. “Firstly, the government was willing to consider taking a one third equity stake in the project, alongside investment from Hitachi and Government of Japan agencies and other strategic partners.

"Secondly, the government was willing to consider providing all the required debt financing to complete construction. Thirdly, the government agreed to consider providing a Contract for Difference to the project with a strike price expected to be no more £75 per megawatt hour.”

Clark insisted: “We will continue to champion the nuclear sector in North Wales, which is home to world-leading expertise in areas such as nuclear innovation and decommissioning and offers ideal sites for deploying small modular reactors.”

He concluded: “Nuclear has an important role to play as part of a diverse energy mix but must be at a price that is fair to electricity bill payers and to taxpayers. We will work closely with Hitachi and the industry to ensure that we find the best means of financing these and other new nuclear projects.

“And our commitment to Anglesey – with nuclear, renewables, and the deep expertise that it has, a real island of energy – will not be changed by this decision.”


Read more:

Energy secretary Greg Clark's statement in the House of Commons

Welsh ministers call in nuclear power plant site preparation bid

National Grid submits Wylfa Newydd connection plans 

DCO application submitted for Wylfa Newydd

Sea bird concerns delay Anglesey nuclear power plant DCO


Image credit | Horizon Power

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