Horizon Nuclear Power (a subsidiary of Hitachi) has been granted permission to clear a square mile on which they hope to build the new Wylfa Newydd B nuclear reactor on the north coast of Anglesey, near Cemaes – reported cost being £12-16bn – double the amount quoted in 2014. Horizon have promised the planning committee in Llangefni that they will restore the site to its current condition if plans for a nuclear plant fall through. BBC Wales reports that a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the nuclear plant has not been granted and it could take at least 18 months for the planning inspectorate to reach a decision.
The former Magnox Wylfa Power Station, now being decommissioned
A Financial Times article reports that Greg Clark, the business secretary, said the government will be considering a direct investment of £6.5bn alongside contributions from Hitachi and Japanese government agencies” – though at the estimated £77.50 per MWh, the price will still be far higher than the £57.50 per MWh price agreed for offshore wind projects in the government’s subsidy auction last year.
Greenpeace notes that there are “serious concerns about the viability and financing of the project” and has taken legal action arguing work should not start until Horizon has been given permission to build Wylfa B. People Against Wylfa B protest group and The North Anglesey Partnership, consisting of a number of local community councils, also raised concerns about “many unanswered questions”.
In a letter to the Financial Times, David Blackburn, Vice-chairman of the UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Steering Committee, NFLA Secretariat, Manchester City Council, UK responded to this news.
He described the billions being offered as ‘a huge kick in the teeth’ for the nascent tidal energy sector, indicating the preference of the government for nuclear power over a much more dynamic, efficient and effective renewable energy sector.
After pointing out that Hitachi’s great rival Toshiba has been brought crashing down by its own new nuclear power programme, he asks: “Should the UK government’s energy policy really be used to prop up foreign multinationals rather than deliver a domestic industrial strategy that supporting schemes like the Swansea tidal lagoon could provide? . . . How can the government justify £6.5bn of public money at a time when our public services remain under severe pressure and the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to fall?”
As renewable energy, battery storage and “smart” energy efficiency programmes have rapidly expanded, while inflexible new nuclear power has floundered, Blackburn believes that this proposed deal needs extensive parliamentary scrutiny and a complete review of the direction of UK energy policy.