Wylfa B nuclear plant: Reaction to plans being shelved
- 29 March 2012
- From the section North West Wales
Unions, politicians and community leaders have reacted with disappointment to news that two power firms have shelved plans to build a new nuclear power station on Anglesey.
E.ON and RWE npower made the decision on Wylfa B, intended to operate from 2025, after a strategic review.
Unions say it is a "lost opportunity" amid concern from others about the impact on local jobs and the economy.
But anti-nuclear campaigners welcomed the decision.
The Welsh secretary says she is hopeful other investors can be found.
Cheryl Gillan said she remains "convinced that Wylfa is the prime site for the next generation of nuclear power stations".
"Anglesey has nearly 50 years of experience of the nuclear industry and has developed skills that are second to none. This gives me confidence that the site at Wylfa will be attractive to other investors," she said.
"I have spoken to RWE on the rationale for this commercial decision, and I plan to meet them at the earliest opportunity."
First Minister Carwyn Jones said the announcement was "disappointing", but blamed it on the change of policy towards nuclear power in Germany last year.
"Nevertheless we are aware that there is significant interest in the Wylfa site," he told journalists in Cardiff Bay.
He said that "interest has been signalled to us today".
Mr Jones said the Welsh government would work with the UK government and that he had spoken to Energy Secretary Ed Davey on Thursday.
A Welsh government spokesman said: "There is live and significant interest in the site, and the first minister has asked for the full support of the UK Government as we work with Horizon to deliver this investment and secure jobs for workers at Wylfa in the future."
The German-owned energy giants, who formed the Horizon nuclear company as joint venture, blamed the global economic crisis, developments in the nuclear industry in Germany and what they called the "significant ongoing costs" of running the project.
Mike Clancy, general secretary designate of Prospect, the largest union in the UK nuclear industry, said: "E.ON and RWE npower's decision to pull out of the Horizon venture has very worrying implications for both Horizon's 120 highly-skilled employees, who now face an uncertain future, and for the UK's wider energy policy and security of supply. "
Horizon had planned up to 6,000 megawatts of new nuclear plants in Britain, which they saw as more friendly to nuclear energy than other countries.
But the parent companies had been indicating recently that they were concerned about possible cost overruns as seen at other nuclear projects in Europe.
Ynys Mon MP Albert Owen said: "This is a massive blow to the local community, the regional economy and the energy industry.
"A lot of investment has already been made and the best legacy for the future has to be jobs.
"Over the coming days and weeks I will be pressing the case for Anglesey firmly the area deserves nothing less after this bad news."
Sasha Davies, director of the Anglesey Energy Island programme, told BBC Wales that despite the "temporary body blow" there were other "highly credible companies" interested in the power station.
"We are confident that through developments already within the UK government working with Welsh government that there will be a new nuclear build here on Anglesey," she said.
"There is already considerable new interest in the site."
Anglesey council leader Councillor Bryan Owen said: "The Isle of Anglesey County Council, through its Energy Island Programme, remains absolutely committed to securing new investment and other energy generation schemes for Wales.
"We will work with Horizon and its shareholders, the Welsh government and UK government to find a new investor for the Wylfa site."
Aled Roberts, north Wales regional AM, said the island had been planning its economic future around the power station.
"A lot of their economic development policies are actually based on the whole concept of the energy island," he said.
Anglesey AM Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "This is extremely disappointing news for Anglesey, given that the project had the potential to provide hundreds of good quality jobs for local people and opportunities for local companies in the new build phase."
GMB union national secretary for energy, Gary Smith said: "It is really bad news in terms of construction jobs and the potential employment that would have been created in the UK manufacturing supply chain.
"New nuclear is an essential component in keeping the lights on in the UK. "
The Nuclear Industry Association described the news as a consequence of the "commercial realities" facing the Horizon joint venture partners.
"The companies have made clear that the decision is not a reflection on either the quality of the Wylfa site or on the investment opportunities that nuclear new-build in the UK offers," said a statement.
"We are confident that other investors will emerge to carry on the Horizon project."
But some opponents of a new station welcomed the decision.
Phillip Steele, treasurer of local campaign group Pawb, People Against Wylfa B, said: "I think it is now an opportunity really for us to say enough of this whole nuclear programme, lets move on to more constructive work in renewables and other industries.
"As far as jobs goes, there is already the decommissioning so there will be continued employment.
"And presumably the council will be looking for a new buyer but the delay on that will be huge.
"And, in the meantime, renewables are coming up on the fast-track and by the time it would be built ...it would be an old fashioned white elephant."
Environment campaign group WWF Cymru welcomed the announcement, saying it looked like the economics "just don't stack up".
A spokesman added: "We hope today's news will prompt Carwyn Jones to refocus his government's efforts to support clean, safe and affordable renewable energy production."
Horizon Nuclear Power had hoped construction of the £8bn project would start towards the end of 2012.
It had been developing options for two to three new reactors next to the existing Magnox station, which had been given permission to operate until 2014.