Hitachi suspends nuclear new build in England and Wales

2 min read

Plans to build new nuclear power stations in the UK have suffered another setback after Hitachi announced it is suspending projects in Anglesey and Gloucestershire.

new nuclear
Wylfa Newydd view from coast (Pic: Horizon Nuclear Power)

Today’s announcement follows speculation that Hitachi would put its nuclear development plans on hold in England and Wales after failing to negotiate a deal with the government on financing the projects.

Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant on Anglesey in North Wales and Oldbury on Severn in South Gloucestershire were being developed by Horizon Nuclear Power, which was acquired by Hitachi in 2012. The company had planned to develop at least 5,800MW of new nuclear power across the sites.

Duncan Hawthorne, CEO of Horizon Nuclear Power said: “We have made very strong progress on all aspects of the project’s development, including the UK design of our tried and tested reactor, supply chain development and especially the building of a very capable organisation of talented and committed people.

“We have been in close discussions with the UK government, in cooperation with the government of Japan, on the financing and associated commercial arrangements for our project for some years now.  I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned.

“As a result, we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project, as well as work related to Oldbury, until a solution can be found. In the meantime, we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

Both sites would have created around 850 full-time positions and 9,000 jobs at the peak of construction.

“Clearly this will have a significant impact for all involved with our project,” said Hawthorne. “Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey remains the best site for nuclear development in the UK and we remain committed to keeping channels of communication open with the government and our other key stakeholders regarding future options at both our sites.”

Commenting on today’s announcement about Wylfa Newydd, Jenifer Baxter, head of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: "This is sad news for North Wales and the UK energy industry. The construction of the plant, and its operation, were expected to provide hundreds of highly skilled engineering apprenticeships and jobs in North Wales for decades to come. This is an area with few of these well-paid jobs and this plant would provide an important economic boost to North Wales.

"When built, it would have provided around six per cent of UK electricity demand, all reliable low-carbon electricity, helping the UK meet its decarbonisation targets under the Climate Change Act. The reduction in nuclear power in the UK is a loss to our ability to decarbonise rapidly. This decision to pause development of one of our major nuclear energy sites combined with the decision to leave Euratom as part of Brexit will damage the long-term outlook for the nuclear manufacturing supply chain in the UK."

“This is a tragedy, all down to a flawed ‘leave it to the market’ approach with no consistency in policy and it proves there are limits to markets,” added Prof Sue Ion FRS FREng, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. “The UK must be the only developed nation on earth leaving our critical energy infrastructure beholden to overseas entities. There are some things which the government has an ultimate duty to deliver and they cannot duck the fact that they have responsibility for nationally significant infrastructure. Successive governments, not just this one, have said they want nuclear energy in the mix so they have to ensure it happens.”

Today’s news is the latest setback for nuclear new build in Britain. In November 2018 Toshiba wound up NuGen, the company set up to build up to 3.6GW on land in Moorside, West Cumbria at a cost of around £10bn.