Wylfa Newydd new-build project scrapped

February 1, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

The loosely connected plug keeping the United Kingdom’s Wylfa Newydd nuclear new-build project alive has been officially pulled.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary that remained involved in the project following its parent company’s pullout in September 2020, has formally withdrawn its application for a development consent order (DCO) regarding the proposed nuclear plant. (DCOs are required for large infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom to move forward.) The facility was to be sited adjacent to the decommissioned Wylfa reactors, on the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales.

A decision on the DCO application, under review by the U.K. Planning Inspectorate since 2018, was expected by April 30, after a series of successful requests for extensions from Duncan Hawthorne, Horizon’s chief executive officer, who had cited “discussions with third parties that have expressed an interest in progressing with the development” of Wylfa Newydd.

The announcement: In a January 27 letter to the Planning Inspectorate, Horizon wrote that negotiations on the future of the project “have not, unfortunately, led to any definitive proposal that would have allowed the transfer to some new development entity. In light of this, and in the absence of a new funding policy from HM Government, Hitachi Ltd. has taken the decision to wind-up Horizon as an active development entity by 31 March 2021. As a result, we must now, regretfully, withdraw the application.”

Despite Horizon’s decision to close the project, Hawthorne noted in a statement that “nuclear power has a critical role to play in helping tackle our energy needs, meeting our climate change targets, and leveling up the economy through green growth and job creation. Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and Oldbury on Severn [Horizon was also considering land near Oldbury in South Gloucestershire as a site for a new nuclear plant] are highly desirable sites for new nuclear build.”

Reaction: Horizon’s announcement drew this response from the U.K. government: “We 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, including taking a one-third equity stake, providing all required debt financing, and offering generous financial support through our contract for difference scheme. We understand that this will be disappointing news for the people of north Wales. However, Wylfa remains an important site for potential new projects, and the U.K. government will continue to explore future opportunities for it.”

Local government also expressed disappointment, with Anglesey council leader Llinos Medi terming the news a “real blow” to the island’s future. “We simply cannot let these long years of effort and hard work be for nothing; our young people and communities expect and deserve far better opportunities," she said.

Where there’s a Wylfa: One possible future for nuclear power at the Wylfa site came into view on January 15, when British firm Shearwater Energy announced that it is teaming with U.S.-based NuScale Power to develop a hybrid project at Wylfa that would use wind energy and small modular reactor technology to produce power and green hydrogen.

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