Wylfa B nuclear plant: Talks to find new investors

The existing Wylfa plant on Anglesey People Against Wylfa B (Pawb) say alternatives to nuclear energy should now be found

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Talks are continuing to find investors after a company which was to build a new nuclear power station on Anglesey pulled out.

E.ON and RWE npower are looking for a new owner for Horizon Nuclear Power, the joint firm to develop Wylfa B.

Experts, politicians and community leaders say they are hopeful a new buyer can be found.

However, opponents to the Wylfa plans say alternatives to nuclear energy should now be found.

The German-owned companies blamed the global economic crisis, developments in the nuclear industry in Germany and what they called the "significant ongoing costs" of running the Horizon joint venture for the decision.

'Switching supplies off'

However, Volker Beckers, chief executive of RWE npower, said Wales was still one of the "most attractive" new nuclear sites across Europe.

"A new investor can effectively leapfrog the queue. In other words, any investor will benefit from the great work the team has done over the last three years," he said.

Analysis

There's a political problem here in the UK.

Where does the UK government go now with nuclear?

Where does it go in terms of: 'we need to have nuclear but successive governments have been very slow in deciding how they're going to fund it and where these nuclear sites are going to be and how fast they can be built'.

We're talking about 17 reactors closing by 2023 and old coal and oil gas-fired power stations also closing in 2015 because of carbon emissions.

There could be an energy shortfall and that will be a massive problem for all concerned, but especially the UK government.

Nuclear energy expert Malcolm Grimston, a fellow at Chatham House, told BBC Radio Wales said Horizon provided other investors with an "opportunity".

"If we don't build nuclear to replace Wylfa and the other plants as they come off line then we are going to be importing a lot of gas, producing a lot more carbon emissions, and vulnerable to either Russia pushing the price up or switching the supplies off so the argument for continuing nuclear is as strong as it was," he said.

"And I think other companies, maybe existing consortia or others may well reassess the situation and take advantage of this opportunity."

Horizon had planned up to 6,000 megawatts of new nuclear plants in Britain, including Wylfa B, 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.

Start Quote

With new nuclear going way over budget and with no safe build in sight, we can at last reflect on the wisdom of using this type of energy”

End Quote Pippa Bartolotti Leader, Wales Green Party

The Welsh government says Anglesey remains the best option in the UK for a nuclear development.

The Wales Green Party welcomed the decision, claiming it would help renewable industries.

Pippa Bartolotti, leader of the Wales Green Party said the costs of "unwanted nuclear sites were always going to be unsupportable".

"Germany and Japan know the price is too high for the environment. With new nuclear going way over budget and with no safe build in sight, we can at last reflect on the wisdom of using this type of energy.

"The intelligent way forward is to invest in renewables such as solar, tide and wind. Green energy will always provide us with more jobs, safer living and greater energy security."

Labour MP Albert Owen said it was a massive blow to the community, regional economy and energy industry.

'Absolutely committed'

Plaid Cymru AM Ieuan Wyn Jones said he would also be working in the efforts to secure another company to take the project forward.

Anglesey council said it remained "absolutely committed to securing new investment and other energy generation schemes".

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan was also disappointed but said Anglesey's 50 years of experience in the nuclear industry gave her confidence the Wylfa site will be attractive to other investors. ‪ ‪

But groups including People Against Wylfa B (Pawb) who opposed the development have welcomed the decision.

Horizon Nuclear Power had hoped construction of the £8bn project would start towards the end of 2012.

Start Quote

If we are serious about Anglesey as an 'energy island' then we have to invest in other forms of energy production”

End Quote Alun Ffred Jones Plaid Cymru energy spokesperson

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.

Wylfa B has been seen as promising an economic lifeline to the people of Anglesey.

According to the proposals, about 5,000 construction jobs would be created while the plant is built, and between 800 and 1,000 people would be employed in the station from 2020.

In March 2011 Horizon said it needed to "take stock" of its plans following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Plaid Cymru energy spokesperson Alun Ffred Jones told BBC Radio Wales that focusing Anglesey's future development on nuclear power "shows the danger in putting all our eggs in one basket".

"If we are serious about Anglesey as an 'energy island' then we have to invest in other forms of energy production."

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said developing the power plant was "critical" for the "economic future of the island".

He said unless the UK's nuclear infrastructure was "sorted" it would create a "pinch point" in meeting future energy needs.

Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts 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.

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