Fresh blow for nuclear power sector workers as another scheme is shelved

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In another blow for the stalling UK nuclear energy sector, Horizon Nuclear Power has announced it will be ceasing its activities to develop two new power station projects in the UK.

The decision not to go ahead with building new power stations at Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and at Oldbury on Severn, in South Gloucestershire, following a decision by Japanese giant Hitachi to pull out of the scheme, means a predicted 9,000 jobs will now not be created.

Hitachi announced it will end business operations on the nuclear power plant construction project at Wylfa, which was suspended in January 2019.

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A statement said: “Hitachi made this decision given that 20 months have passed since the suspension, and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19.”

Workers carrying out early ground work in preparation for the replacement power station at Wylfa. Work stopped in 2019 and has now been shelvedWorkers carrying out early ground work in preparation for the replacement power station at Wylfa. Work stopped in 2019 and has now been shelved
Workers carrying out early ground work in preparation for the replacement power station at Wylfa. Work stopped in 2019 and has now been shelved

Horizon said: “Horizon will now take steps for the orderly closing down of all its current development activities, but will keep the lines of communication open with Government and other key stakeholders regarding future options at both our sites.”

Chief executive Duncan Hawthorne said: “I understand this announcement will be disappointing for our many supporters who had hoped to see our project through to completion and I would personally like to thank you for your support throughout our time on this project.

"Nuclear power has a critical role to play in helping tackle our energy needs, meeting our climate change targets and levelling up the economy through green growth and job creation."

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The announcement follows on from the collapse of plans to build three new power stations at Moorside at Sellafield in Cumbria in 2018 which could have provided fuel production work for staff at Springfields plant at Salwick. However, two consortia one led by EDF and another by Rolls Royce have this year tabled plans for smaller reactor schemes at the site.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Today’s announcement is disappointing news which nevertheless underscores the urgent need for progress on new nuclear projects in the UK if net zero carbon emissions is to become a reality.

“It is welcome news that Hitachi and Horizon will co-ordinate with the UK Government and other relevant organisations over the handling of sites and possible future options.

“Wylfa is probably the best site in the UK for new nuclear capacity, and has strong community and stakeholder support.

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“It is imperative that a way forward is found for the site, to deliver thousands of jobs, hundreds of apprenticeships and millions of pounds of investment into an economic boost for the area while delivering secure, reliable and low-carbon power to underpin the UK’s transition to net zero.”

Alan Whitehead, shadow minister for energy and a green new deal, said: “The cancellation of what would have been the largest energy project in Wales, if it cannot be reversed, could have huge consequences including the loss of between £15 and £20bn in investment. It will also prevent the creation of thousands of jobs in the energy sector and wider UK supply chain.

“Ministers must urgently outline whether they plan to seek new developers to take on the Wylfa project, what conversations they have had with Hitachi about the site, and how they will ensure the people of Wales do not pay the price for Hitachi’s withdrawal.”

A Government spokesman said: “Nuclear power will play a key role in the UK’s future energy mix as we transition to a low-carbon economy, including through our investments in small and advanced modular reactors.

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“That’s why we previously 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.

"“We remain willing to discuss new nuclear projects with any viable companies and investors wishing to develop sites in the UK, including in North Wales.”

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