Wylfa nuclear plant: Political leaders welcome Hitachi deal

The project to replace the current Wylfa station could create 6,000 jobs

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Welsh political leaders have welcomed confirmation that Hitachi is to buy nuclear project Horizon which includes plans for a new reactor on Anglesey.

Welsh Secretary David Jones called it a "huge boost" while First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was "very good news for Wales and the UK".

Up to 6,000 jobs could be created while the new reactors are built at Wylfa.

The Horizon development aims to build a new £8bn nuclear power station at Wylfa on the island.

"This is by any standards excellent news not just for Anglesey but for the whole of north Wales," said the Welsh secretary.

"It's going to mean a major construction project with about 5,000 to 6,000 jobs created, about 1,200 long-term high-quality jobs and a huge boost not only to the economy of Anglesey but of course to the whole of the UK energy sector."

He had previously said that securing a new nuclear station on Anglesey was "critical" to his economic efforts.

Analysis

by BBC Wales' Chris Dearden

What has interested most people on Anglesey is the potential for creating jobs.

It is an area which has various difficulties when it comes to creating employment.

Major employers such as Anglesey Aluminium and others have reduced the number of people they employ on the island over the last decade or so.

Basically, Anglesey is looking at a new nuclear power station at Wylfa as a way of creating jobs. But I think everyone is aware of the fact that there's a number of hurdles to overcome yet.

One that has been speculated about in the papers is that Hitachi has got to get approval for its design of reactor before it can actually go ahead and build.

It's difficult to say whether that will make any difference when it comes to the timescale.

Building isn't going to start in 2012 which was the original plan so that presumably means having it open for 2020 is in doubt as well.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said he would continue to work with the UK government and Hitachi to secure the investment for Anglesey.

"The potential benefits of a new nuclear development on Anglesey would be substantial - not just in creating thousands of highly skilled jobs and boosting the supply chain - but in helping to secure our energy supply in the future," he said.

Wylfa was one of a number of sites which was shortlisted for a new nuclear power station last year.

But in March this year, the two German companies behind the project - E.ON and RWE - announced they were pulling out.

They blamed the global economic crisis and Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident in Japan.

They have now sold the project to the Japanese company Hitachi for around £700m.

As well as the Wylfa plans, the deal also includes proposals for a new nuclear power station just over the Welsh border at Oldbury, in South Gloucestershire.

Start Quote

It brings us a step closer to creating good quality jobs on the island as well as opportunities for local companies in the new build phase”

End Quote Ieuan Wyn Jones AM Plaid Cymru

There is some opposition to nuclear power on Anglesey and there is likely to be controversy as other countries rethink their nuclear industries following Fukushima.

But Mr Jones said the design of the nuclear reactor on Anglesey was different to the one in Japan.

"You have to remember that there were specific conditions in Fukushima, for example the seismic conditions which don't apply in Wales," he said.

"But most of all there's going to be a rigorous assessment process which will now be undergone which will last many years, maybe up to four years, and ensure that this is an absolutely safe reactor.

"So I think no-one need have any fears of the safety of what is proposed for Wylfa."

The news has also been welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron who called it a "vote of confidence in the UK".

Anglesey council leader Bryan Owen said the deal was a "massive boost" to the island's economy and that of north Wales, while local MP Albert Owen said it was "an important step forward".

Anglesey AM Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "The project is vitally important for Anglesey's economy and today's announcement is very good news as it brings us a step closer to creating good quality jobs on the island as well as opportunities for local companies in the new build phase".

However, there will be a gap of several years between the old plant stopping producing electricity and the new one becoming operational.

The existing Wylfa plant, which has been producing energy since 1971, is set to continue generating electricity until the fuel runs out or September 2014, whichever comes first.

The Horizon project under E.ON and RWE expected Wylfa B to start producing electricity around 2020 but Hitachi's plans now mention "the first half of the 2020s".

Map showing nuclear reactor sites across the UK

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