Wylfa Newydd - View from the coast.

Hitachi scraps plans for North Wales nuclear plant

Image credit: Wylfa Newydd

Hitachi has scrapped plans to build a multi-billion-pound power station at Wylfa on Anglesey in North Wales after failing to find sufficient funding for the project.

The Japanese firm originally acquired the project, dubbed Horizon, in 2012 from RWE npower and E.ON UK with plans to build two to three 1,300MW nuclear power plants.

But after stalling for several years, Hitachi postponed the project in January 2019 after failing to find sufficient investment amid the turmoil surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU.

Today it announced it is pulling the plug completely noting that the “investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19”.

It has already written off the £2.1bn spent on the plans and hopes have been dashed for the creation of thousands of new jobs.

Chief executive Duncan Hawthorne acknowledged that the decision was “disappointing” while saying he believed nuclear power would still play a “critical role” in tackling the UK’s future energy needs.

He added: “Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and Oldbury on Severn are highly desirable sites for new nuclear build.  We will do our utmost to facilitate the prospects for development which will bring the major local, national and environmental benefits that nuclear can uniquely deliver as we push to transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.”

Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB union, said: “This utterly predictable announcement from Hitachi is the outcome of successive government failures to act decisively around new nuclear, and in particular how it is financed.

“New nuclear is vital in achieving decarbonisation, especially when teamed up with hydrogen.

“It’s no coincidence that around the world – almost without exception – it’s governments who finance these projects, as they are the lender of last resort when it comes to keeping the lights on.

“The fanciful experiment of trying to get foreign companies or governments to fund our future energy needs leaves most ordinary citizens in this country bewildered.”

A group of 100 organisations, including unions and businesses, backing plans to build a nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk, voiced concern about the Wylfa decision.

Cameron Gilmour, spokesman for the Sizewell C Consortium, said: “This news will have serious ramifications for companies both in Wales and across the UK.

“The Wylfa nuclear project would have been another important milestone for the UK’s nuclear supply chain and would have created thousands of jobs.

“Unless Sizewell C, a replica of the under-construction Hinkley Point C, is given the go-ahead, there is now a serious risk to the future of the UK’s civil nuclear construction capability and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it.”

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “Nuclear power’s ever-rising costs overtook the ever-falling costs of renewables years ago, and a new reactor now supplies electricity at more than double the price of a new offshore wind farm.

“Propping up this dying industry has become more and more difficult and expensive for the handful of governments still hoping for a nuclear renaissance.

“We’re hoping the UK government will take Hitachi’s decision to abandon Wylfa as final confirmation of what the energy market has long been trying to tell them – Britain’s future is renewable.”

Developer Horizon Nuclear, which is owned by Hitachi, declined to comment.

Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary of Prospect, said: “This decision from Hitachi is a serious blow to the economy of north Wales and for our chances of hitting net zero.

“It is another lost opportunity to provide good-quality jobs for people who so desperately need them.

“If we are remotely serious about hitting our carbon reduction targets as a country then we need to invest now in proven low-carbon technologies, including new nuclear.

“The stark reality is that without replacement nuclear capacity, the country faces a potential energy gap of 9-21 per cent at peak winter times.”

Stephen Crabb, chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, said: “The decision of Hitachi to pull out of the Wylfa nuclear project is a blow for Wales and the UK’s ambition to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“This was set to be the largest energy project Wales had ever seen with a positive impact on skills and employment in the region.

“Reassurances were made of Hitachi’s commitment to the project over the summer that gave hope to the workers who’d be needed to construct it and the high-skilled employees who would run it.

“With the nation’s remaining nuclear plants ageing and the need for low-carbon, high-yield plants needed to replace them urgently, it has never been more important than now to ensure energy security.”

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