Wylfa: Fresh talks to save £20bn nuclear plant revealed

image copyrightHorizon Nuclear
image captionTalks are ongoing over new Wylfa nuclear plans, it has been confirmed

Plans for a new nuclear power station on Anglesey may not be over, letters to the UK government have revealed.

Japanese firm Hitachi pulled the plug on the £20bn scheme at Wylfa on Anglesey two weeks ago.

But developer Horizon Nuclear Power has sent two letters to ministers stating talks with other "third parties" are continuing.

A decision on planning consent was due to be made on Wednesday, but will now be delayed until 31 December.

The chief executive of Horizon Nuclear wrote to the UK government's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Alok Sharma on 22 September and 28 September.

In the letters, Horizon's Duncan Hawthorne asked for a "short extension" on the deadline to announce the government's decision on whether it would allow planning permission for the original Hitachi plans for Anglesey.

The Development Consent Order (DCO) process, which is the name given to planning applications for major UK infrastructure projects such as Wylfa, has been under consideration since June 2018.

Mr Hawthorne's second letter to the energy secretary said: "Since Hitachi Ltd's announcement to cease development activities associated with the Wylfa Newydd DCO Project, Horizon has been engaged in discussions with third parties that have expressed an interest in progressing with the development of new nuclear generation at the Wylfa Newydd site.

"These discussions are still at an early stage and it is felt that a short deferral would allow time for Horizon and those interested parties to determine whether, and if so how, the Wylfa Newydd DCO Project could be taken forward in Hitachi Ltd's absence."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionWylfa Newydd was being developed for Hitachi in the UK by its subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power

The nuclear boss said he could not reveal any more details about the talks, or who was involved, due to discussions being "commercially sensitive".

But, he added: "My team and I will be working hard over the coming months to bring these to a positive conclusion at which point we will be able to provide you with a more comprehensive update, including the extent to which this could materially impact on the development consent order currently before you for determination."

Work on the Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was suspended in January 2019 because of rising costs after Hitachi failed to reach a funding agreement with the UK government.

On 16 September, Hitachi finally announced it was halting its involvement in Wylfa and its project at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire - despite describing both sites as "highly desirable" for new nuclear plants.

It 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".

The Anglesey project would have seen 9,000 jobs created in the construction phase.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe new Wylfa power station would have been built next to the old power plant on Anglesey

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

It said the UK remained committed to nuclear power and recognised the Hitachi announcement was "very disappointing news" for people in north Wales.

Writing to Horizon Nuclear on Wednesday, the energy secretary said he had considered the request to delay the planning consent decision while talks continued,.

"In the circumstances, it is appropriate to reset the decision deadline for the application to 31 December 2020," said Mr Sharma.

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