Hitachi pulls plug on Wales nuclear build project

September 16, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

Artist's concept of the Wylfa Newydd project. Image: Horizon Nuclear Power

Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. today announced that it is withdrawing from the currently suspended Wylfa Newydd nuclear-build project in northwestern Wales. The announcement dashes the hopes raised last month by reports that Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary in charge of the project, was in talks with the U.K. government regarding a possible resuscitation.

Hitachi had put the project on hold some 20 months ago, and in today’s announcement the company cited the length of the suspension and the COVID-19 investment environment as factors in its decision.

The project: Horizon Nuclear Power, formed in 2009 to develop new nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom, was acquired by Hitachi in November 2012. The following year, Horizon announced plans to construct two advanced boiling water reactors next to the now-shuttered Wylfa nuclear power station on the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of North Wales. The new plant would be called Wylfa Newydd—Welsh for “New Wylfa.”

(The company had proposed a second site as well, near Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire, next to the former Magnox Oldbury nuclear power station.)

In December 2017, U.K. regulators approved Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy’s ABWR design following the completion of the required generic design assessment. In 2018, Hitachi entered into negotiations with the British government regarding various options for governmental support of the Wylfa Newydd project, including the potential for equity and debt investments.

In January last year, however, Hitachi announced that it was suspending the project after failing to reach a financing agreement with the government. In its announcement at the time, Hitachi said that it was “clear that further time is needed to develop a financial structure for the Horizon project and the conditions for building and operating the nuclear power stations.”

What’s next: As a result of today’s decision by Hitachi, Horizon said that it will now take steps for the orderly closing down of all of its current development activities. The company added, however, that it will keep the lines of communication open with the government and other key stakeholders regarding future options at both Wylfa and Oldbury.

What they’re saying: “I understand this announcement will be disappointing for our many supporters who had hoped to see our project through to completion,” said Duncan Hawthorne, Horizon’s chief executive officer.

Hawthorne added that nuclear power has a critical role to play in helping tackle the U.K.’s energy needs, meeting climate change targets, and helping the economy through green growth and job creation. “Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn are highly desirable sites for new nuclear build,” he 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.”

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