Wylfa “hands down the best nuclear new build site in the UK”
Securing a new nuclear plant on Anglesey is the only way for the UK to meet its 2050 net zero emissions target, it has been claimed, amid a push for a new funding model to kick start the project.
The multi billion pound Wylfa Newydd project was suspended 12 months ago after Hitachi failed to reach a funding deal with the UK government – to the relief of anti-nuclear campaigners but to the dismay of others, with the economic hopes of many having been pinned to the development.
Addressing the Commons on Wednesday, the under-secretary of state for industry confirmed that a new energy White Paper should be published within weeks, adding that ministers had worked “extremely hard” during negotiations with developers Hitachi and that the Government had been ready to contribute “significant investment” while being mindful of a need to represent value for money.
Nadhim Zahawi said, “The Wylfa site remains a potential location for new nuclear development, and Hitachi has stated that it is keen to discuss future options for the site with us, based on alternative funding models.”
It has long been expected that the upcoming white paper will propose a new financing model for nuclear power, including include electricity customers paying for part of such schemes’ costs upfront via their bills.
The model, known as RAB (Regulated Asset Base), allows investors to receive returns before the projects have been completed.
But in what had hoped would be a kick-starter to restarting the project, October 2019 was expected to see the UK Government grant the necessary planning permission for the technology.
In a surprise move, however, energy secretary Andrea Leadsom announced that she was kicking a decision to the long grass until more information was made available, asking for more information on environmental and other impacts on Anglesey.
Island MP Virginia Crosbie, who had secured the adjournment debate on the future of the nuclear industry, described Wylfa as “hands down the best nuclear new build site in the UK.”
“This project is the only way forward to ensure that we can meet our 2050 target on decarbonisation,” she told the Commons.
“If this project does not go ahead these talented people will inevitably look further afield for work, we cannot and must not allow north Wales to lose out.
“The local community on the island understand nuclear energy, having seen at first hand the benefits of the original Magnox station, and there is a large amount of support for the project locally.
“It is encouraging that despite many major political differences, there is cross-party support, with senior figures from both Labour and Plaid Cymru backing the development.”
She added, “The Wylfa project is all but ready to progress into construction. It is based on proven reactor technology.
“If the process had to be restarted with a different developer, we are looking at the very least at another four to five years of delay.
“So much of the groundwork has been done. Why would we waste this opportunity? Why would we waste more time?”
Anglesey Council remains supportive of a nuclear development on the island, citing the need for much needed well-paid jobs and its potential to “transform” the region’s economy.
The economy portfolio holder, Cllr Carwyn Jones, recently told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have positioned ourselves as an energy island in terms of research, potential sites, local backing, M-Sparc and a world leading facility at Coleg Menai. So I feel we’re well positioned to fit in to this vision going forward.
“We’ve lost Rehau and Macro cables, and there are ongoing job losses at Magnox, but I feel we’re in as strong a position as ever to attract major developments such as Wylfa Newydd, which would be a game-changer on a huge scale.
“It would also bring millions in terms of Section 106 investment into our leisure, education and housing, roads, tourism, where public money is currently scarce.
“Wylfa and a third crossing would bring so much work, and with the UK government now able to fulfil the work of government, the certainty of a settled Parliament helps us, no matter whatever their political colours are.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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