Wednesday 16 September 2020 12:30 pm

Hitachi withdraws from Wylfa nuclear power plant

Hitachi has this morning confirmed that it is scrapping plans for a £15 – £20bn nuclear power plant on the island of Anglesey in Wales.

Yesterday Llinos Medi, the leader of Anglesey council, said that she had been informed that the Japanese firm were intending to pull out of the project altogether.

Read more: EDF to shut Hunterston nuclear plant in January 2022

In a statement, she said: “I have been informed that Hitachi intends to withdraw from the Wylfa Newydd project. However, I understand that this decision still needs to be ratified tomorrow.”

Now, Horizon, Hitachi’s subsidiary which runs the project, has confirmed that it is ceasing activities at the site.

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.
“In particular I would like to thank our lead host community of Anglesey in Wales, represented by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and Welsh Government, and the key representatives around Oldbury.”

Hitachi said that the worsening investment climate due to the pandemic was to blame for the decision.

“Hitachi made this decision given that 20 months have passed since the suspension, and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19”, it said in a statement.

In January 2019 it was announced that work on the project had been suspended after the company failed to come to an agreement with the government about the funding of the project.

However, last month there were reports that officials at Horizon were in discussions about restarting development. 

But Medi’s comments suggest that the 2.7 gigawatt project has now reached the end of the line. 

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Medi went on: “If this decision is confirmed – then it will be a devastating blow to the Anglesey economy. The Wylfa Newydd project had the potential to transform the Anglesey and North Wales economy, particularly that of North Anglesey.

“I will be calling for an urgent meeting with both UK and Welsh Governments to discuss the future of the Wylfa site.”

Decision heaps pressure on UK nuclear

The cancellation of the project is yet another blow to the nuclear industry. At the moment, there are eight nuclear plants in the UK producing 20 per cent of the country’s power, but four of these are due to shut by 2024. 

Last month it was announced that Hunterston B nuclear power station in Scotland would begin decommissioning in January 2022 at the latest.

The plant, which began generating electricity in 1976, provides enough power to run 1.7m homes.

The cancellations will likely increase the focus on EDF’s developments at Hinkley Point C in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk, as well as China General Nuclear’s (CGN) plan to build a plant at Bradwell B in Essex. 

Hawthorne went on to say that Horizon would do its “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.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “It is imperative that a way forward is found for the site, to deliver thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of investment while delivering secure, reliable and low carbon power.”

And Unite, the union, called on ministers to unveil their long-awaited energy white paper to allay uncertainty over the industry’s future.

Read more: An open letter to the PM: Britain must build Sizewell C — nuclear sits at the heart of a green recovery

Unite national officer for energy Peter McIntosh said: “We desperately need clarity in the energy white paper which ensures nuclear power is a crucial part of the energy ‘mix’ in the decades ahead, providing a source of ‘clean’ and reliable electricity, as well as creating skilled ‘green’ employment.

“A strong commitment to ‘new’ nuclear will give a confidence boost to the future development of such sites as Bradwell, Moorside and Sizewell, following the devastating announcement yesterday that Hitachi won’t be proceeding with the Wylfa project and the news from Horizon today.”