Nuclear power: Wylfa on Anglesey chosen as site for new power plant

Screenshot, The previous Wylfa power station stopped generating power in 2015

  • Author, Thomas
  • Role, BBC Business Correspondent in Wales

Wylfa on Anglesey has been chosen as the preferred site for a large-scale nuclear power plant, the UK government has said.

International energy companies have started talks with the UK government to start construction of the new Wylfa plant.

The British government’s energy secretary, Claire Coutinho, said the site would provide “thousands of well-paid jobs.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies says he will not “put a date” on when a power station could be built and ready for production, but said “Wylfa is destined to have a nuclear station”.

When asked if a new power station would be ready by 2040, he said it “traditionally takes quite a while.”

Davies said several international energy companies were interested in investing in the site.

Speaking on Radio Wales Breakfast, he said he had “met informally” with representatives of South Korean energy company Kepco at a dinner.

He said they were “very interested” but there were “proper channels to go through”.

The new Wylfa power station would be of a similar scale to the new Hinkley plant in Somerset and the proposed development at Sizewell in Suffolk.

The site is located on the north coast of Anglesey and first had a nuclear power station in the early 1970s.

The UK government wants to quadruple nuclear power capacity by up to 25 gigawatts by 2050 with a new fleet of plants, as older plants reach the end of their operations.

Screenshot, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho praised Anglesey’s “proud nuclear history” in choosing Wylfa as the government’s preferred site.

“Anglesey has a proud nuclear history and it is only right that it can once again play a central role in driving the UK’s energy security,” Ms Coutinho said.

He added that Wylfa would bring “clean, reliable energy” to millions of homes and create “thousands of well-paid jobs” and investment for North Wales.

The previous Wylfa power station stopped generating power at the end of 2015.

Japanese operator Hitachi canceled plans for a new nuclear reactor in 2020 and mothballed the site.

During the Spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the operator had sold the site to the UK Government.

Ministers also purchased a detached site owned by Hitchai in Oldbury, Gloucestershire.

Great British Nuclear, the government body tasked with supplying more nuclear power, has overseen the purchase of both sites and is considering the use of small modular reactors as part of the UK’s nuclear energy supply, as well as large-scale power plants.

Gwen Parry-Jones, chief executive of Great British Nuclear, said she was looking forward to “the market share programme” for large-scale gigawatt suppliers.

Jo Stevens, shadow secretary of Britain’s Labor Party in Wales, said “any progress is welcome” but the people of Anglesey “will believe it when they see it.”

“It’s been five years since ministers sat back and watched previous plans for Wylfa fail,” he said.

“That project would already be 50% complete and we would be seeing the benefits of thousands of construction jobs with almost a thousand more permanent jobs on the way.”

Screenshot, Wylfa would operate on a similar scale to the new Hinkley Point C power station currently under construction in Somerset.

Analysis by Gareth Lewis, BBC political editor

These kinds of things look good in an election year. And this is a constituency that will be contested by the Conservatives, Labor and Plaid Cymru.

Nuclear projects bring prestige, the promise of thousands of jobs, help meet green goals, and look big and shiny, at least in an artist’s impression.

Wylfa has been here before. The brave new nuclear dawn on Anglesey always has the dark cloud of bitter past experience looming on the horizon.

Today it is one step, with many more to go for decades, especially in costs… long after the 2024 general election is ancient history.

‘A dinosaur that should not be resurrected’

People Against Wylfa B (Pawb), a campaign group opposing nuclear power in Anglesey, called him a “dinosaur” that “should not be resurrected”.

The group called for greater investment in renewable energy plans using wind, solar and hydropower.

Pawb member Linda Rodgers said the site could not be built in time to help combat the climate crisis.

“We need to invest in the kind of jobs and energy supplies that are sustainable and can be built quickly,” he said.

A partnership between Bechtel and Westinghouse has also expressed interest in building the new Wylfa plant.

Prospect, one of the unions representing nuclear industry workers, said Wylfa was the “best site in Europe” for large-scale nuclear power.

Union deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said: “New gigawatt-scale nuclear power plants are vital to reaching net zero and to our energy security.

“But they also maintain well-paid, highly skilled jobs, meaning this project would be a huge boost for the Welsh economy.

“We now need a laser focus on delivering new nuclear power to ensure that skills and expertise are not lost, and that costs are reduced as we move forward.”