U.K. announces new site for mega-nuclear power station

May 28, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News

The United Kingdom has announced a northern Wales site as its preferred location for a third mega-nuclear power station as the nation aims to support long-term energy security.

Following its plans to build nuclear facilities at Hinkley in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk, both in England, U.K. officials hope to revive the nuclear history of Wylfa, in Wales, and bring thousands of jobs and major investment to the area. The government is kickstarting talks with global energy firms in hopes of building a nuclear plant in Wylfa that could provide enough energy to power 6 million homes for 60 years.


“Wylfa would not only bring clean, reliable energy to millions of homes—it could create thousands of well-paid jobs and bring investment to the local area,” said Claire Coutinho, U.K. secretary of state for energy security and net zero.

Nuclear plans: Earlier this year, the United Kingdom launched plans for its largest nuclear expansion in 70 years, outlining plans to grow nuclear energy capacity to 24 gigawatts by 2050. Its current fleet of nine reactors generates nearly 5.9 gigawatts and supplies 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.

The properties at Wylfa in northern Wales and Oldbury-on-Severn in southwestern England were bought by ministers for £160 million ($203 million) from previous developers Hitachi. This was the first time since the 1960s that the government acquired land for new nuclear.

Great British Nuclear handled the property purchase. The group is an extension of the U.K. government, established to help achieve nuclear goals in the nation, with a primary focus on bringing SMRs on line.

“The government is absolutely right to pursue more large-scale nuclear alongside the SMR program: It is proven technology that delivers clean, sovereign power and can transform communities with thousands of high quality, long term jobs,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the U.K. Nuclear Industry Association. “Wylfa is an ideal place for a big nuclear project, and the community knows nuclear.”

Wylfa history: Two 490-MWe Magnox reactors were built as the original nuclear project at the site. The reactors began commercial operation in November 1971 and January 1972; and they operated successfully until Unit 2 was shut down in 2012 and then Unit 1 in 2015. Defueling of the plant completed in 2019.

Meanwhile, Horizon Nuclear Power had announced plans in 2009 to develop a new nuclear facility at the 20-hectare site and later partnered with Hitachi, but plans faltered in 2019 and both companies abandoned their plans.

Welsh secretary of state David T. C. Davies recently said he couldn’t put a date on when the new nuclear project will be built but added that Wylfa is “destined to have a nuclear power station.”

Asked if a new power station would be ready by 2040, he said, “It’s traditionally taken a longish time,” but several international energy companies have expressed interest in the site.

The Financial Times reported South Korean state energy company Kepco was among those in early talks with ministers over the new Wylfa power plant.

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