GBN to buy sites for new nuclear

March 12, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News
Hitachi pulled out of plans for a nuclear project at Wylfa in 2020 (Image: Horizon Nuclear Power)

Great Britain announced last week that it will purchase land at two nuclear sites from Hitachi for £160 million ($203 million).

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the deal for the sites—Wylfa in northern Wales and Oldbury-on-Severn in southwestern England—during the annual budget speech to Parliament. Under Hitachi’s ownership, the land was prepped for developing a pair of advanced boiling water reactor units, but those plans were suspended in 2019 due to economic constraints.

“These two sites at Wylfa and Oldbury have tremendous potential and present a significant opportunity for Britain and for local communities. Each location has a long history of hosting the U.K. nuclear industry and has enormous benefits that nuclear power can bring to their local and regional economies,” said Gwen Parry-Jones, chief executive of Great British Nuclear (GBN), the governmental body leading the purchase.

Nuclear growth: The United Kingdom wants to expand nuclear energy capacity to 24 gigawatts by 2050, making it the country’s largest nuclear power expansion in 70 years. Its current fleet of nine reactors generates 5,883 megawatts (5.883 gigawatts), supplying about 14 percent of the nation’s energy.

The U.K. government, which is planning a fleet of small modular reactors and a large-unit buildout, published its Civil Nuclear Roadmap in January, laying out goals and actions for building nuclear energy capacity. About 64,500 workers are involved in the U.K. civil nuclear supply chain, and that number will have to double over the next 20 years to support the quadrupling of output.

“This is a pivotal moment for the future of nuclear in the U.K. and should mark the beginning of new projects at these sites,” said Tom Greatrex, CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association.

Lead agency: The government launched GBN during the summer of 2023, calling it an “arms-length body responsible for driving delivery of new nuclear projects, backed with the funding it needs.” GBN is the official purchaser of the new nuclear sites land and is handling incoming generation proposals.

Six companies are currently bidding to build on the land: EDF Energy, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy International LLC, Holtec Britian Limited, NuScale Power, Rolls-Royce SMR, and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited. Bid proposals are being accepted until June 2024. Successful bidders will be allocated sites and receive funding to develop their technology.

By making existing nuclear sites available, GBN hopes the projects can develop at a fast pace. “Access to nuclear sites is a critical factor in achieving these nuclear ambitions, which include developing [SMRs] and exploring a further large-scale reactor after Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.”

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