Hitachi cancels its £20bn Wylfa Newydd power plant

Yoana Cholteeva 16 September 2020 (Last Updated September 18th, 2020 12:39)

Hitachi has announced that it is abandoning its plans to build a new £15-£20bn nuclear power station on the island of Anglesey, off the coast of north Wales.

Hitachi cancels its £20bn Wylfa Newydd power plant
Previous estimations have promised that the now-scrapped Hitachi Wylfa plant would have provided around 6% of Britain’s electricity. Source: Reading Tom from Reading, UK

The company officially confirmed it was permanently cancelling plans for the Wylfa Newydd power station today, following Tuesday’s announcement from the Isle of Anglesey County Council that it had received news of the cancellation.

Hitachi’s UK subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power initially proposed the project. Plans included the construction of two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWR) at Wylfa Newydd in Anglesey.

Work on the Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was suspended in January 2019 due to rising costs, after Hitachi failed to reach a funding agreement with the UK government.

Hitachi said on Wednesday that it has taken this final decision given that 20 months had passed since the project had paused “and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19”.

A company spokesperson said: “Hitachi expresses its deepest gratitude to the UK government, the Wales government and residents, the Japanese government and other stakeholders for their continued support and cooperation.

“Hitachi will continue to contribute to improve social, environmental, and economic value and people’s quality of life through its social innovation business, including its energy business.”

The company has ensured it will coordinate with the British Government and related organisations regarding the handling of the planned construction sites, its ABWR license, and other issues.

The scrapping of the project is not expected to have significant impact on Hitachi’s business results as the company has already written down most of the related assets.

The UK government intends to construct several nuclear reactors as part of its energy transition. However, even after offering a financing package “well beyond what any government has been willing to consider in the past”, Hitachi remained uninterested.

The cancellation comes as “disappointing news”

After Hitachi announced that it will be terminating its involvement in UK nuclear projects at Wylfa Newydd, the news sparked some concern over the UK’s renewable energy agenda.

Reacting to the news, Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex 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.”

Despite the current events, Greatrex expressed hopes about the possibility of new upcoming nuclear project and the use of the Wylfa site.

“It is imperative that a way forward is found for the [Wylfa] 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.

He added: “The nuclear industry has a bright future in this country: investing in emissions-free, reliable, and secure nuclear power will cut emissions and create the skilled, long-term jobs we need for a green recovery. No electricity generation source has saved as much carbon as nuclear power has, while generating skilled, stable, and long-term employment.”

Previous estimations have promised that the now-scrapped Hitachi Wylfa plant would have provided around 6% of Britain’s electricity and would have created up to 9,000 jobs during construction.

A hit to the community of Anglesey

Following the announcement of the project cancellation, the Trade Unionists for Safe Nuclear Energy issued a statement expressing their concern related to the Anglesey communities, which were expected to benefit from the new development.

The statement says: “The announcement from Hitachi today is deeply disappointing news to the community of Anglesey, who have been nothing but incredibly supportive of the project for over 10 years.

“We’re calling on the government to work with industry to find a way of moving forward with this site as soon as possible, and save the tens of thousands of skilled jobs Wylfa Newydd would have created in North Wales, and across the UK supply chain.”

In order to prevent such project cancelations driven by commercial interest, the union urges that more work be done in the future: “This cannot be allowed to happen again, and it is vital [that] the upcoming Energy White Paper contains a strong commitment to new nuclear, and identifies a way forward for other sites such as Sizewell, Bradwell, Moorside, as well as Wylfa and Oldbury.”