Wales

Nuclear: Hitachi scraps £20bn Wylfa power plant

Wylfa Nuclear Power Station at Cemaes Bay, Anglesey, North Wales. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new Wylfa power station would have been built next to the old power plant on Anglesey

Plans for a £15-£20bn nuclear power plant in Wales have been scrapped.

Work on the Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was suspended in January last year because of rising costs after Hitachi failed to reach a funding agreement with the UK government.

Hitachi has now confirmed it is withdrawing from the project, after Isle of Anglesey council said it had received the news on Tuesday.

It would have created up to 9,000 jobs during construction.

Hitachi said it made the decision given 20 months had passed since the project had paused "and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19".

Minister for Economy and North Wales Ken Skates said: "The news from Hitachi today is deeply disappointing.

"There has been a tremendous effort by Horizon Nuclear Power, Ynys Mon Council, the North Wales region and all our partners to bring this important project forward. Now is the time to continue with this strong partnership and build upon those efforts.

"We must not lose sight that Wylfa remains one the best sites in the UK for new nuclear development."

Image copyright Horizon Nuclear
Image caption Work on Wylfa was due to start this year

Hitachi said it would coordinate with the UK government and other bodies over handling the planned construction sites and other matters.

Developer Horizon's chief executive Duncan Hawthorne said: "I understand this announcement will be disappointing for our many supporters who had hoped to see our project through to completion and I would personally like to thank you for your support throughout our time on this project.

"Nuclear power has a critical role to play in helping tackle our energy needs, meeting our climate change targets and levelling up the economy through green growth and job creation."

Hitachi is also scrapping its project at Oldbury on Severn in Gloucestershire despite describing both sites as "highly desirable" for new nuclear plants.

Mr Hawthorne said: "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."

'Very disappointing'

The UK government said it remained committed to nuclear power and recognised the announcement was "very disappointing news" for the people of north Wales.

"Nuclear power will play a key role in the UK's future energy mix as we transition to a low-carbon economy, including through our investments in small and advanced modular reactors," a spokesperson said.

"That's why we previously offered a significant package of potential support to this project that went well beyond what any government has been willing to consider in the past.

"This included taking a one third equity stake, providing all of the required debt financing to complete construction, and providing generous financial support through our Contract for Difference scheme."

The UK government said it remains willing to discuss a replacement for the original Wylfa plant, which shut in 2015 after 44 years of service, with viable companies.

Image caption There has been a long campaign against a new nuclear station

Anglesey council was told on Tuesday that Hitachi was withdrawing, and council leader Llinos Medi said: "This is very disappointing, particularly at such a difficult time economically."

However campaigners against the project have welcomed Hitachi's move claiming a new nuclear power station would have "endangered lives on Anglesey and beyond".

The People Against Wylfa B action group said: "It would have ruined the environment over an area which is 10 times greater than the current site."

It called on Hitachi to "ensure that no nuclear scheme will happen on the site in the future" and return the site to its "former state, for community benefit".

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