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HomeNuclearWylfa preferred site for UK new build

Wylfa preferred site for UK new build

22 May 2024

The British government has announced that Wylfa in Anglesey, North Wales, is its preferred site for a new large-scale nuclear power plant. It has launched talks with international energy companies to explore building a power plant at the site.

The existing Wylfa site (Image: ONR)

In March, the government announced that an agreement had been reached to buy the Hitachi-owned sites for new nuclear at Wylfa and at Oldbury-on-Severn in southwest England for GBP160 million (USD203 million). At the time, it said the two sites were expected to be prioritised for new nuclear as the UK seeks to expand nuclear energy capacity. It marked the first time the government acquired land for new nuclear since the 1960s.

The government has now said that Wylfa is its first option for siting a “major nuclear power station, similar in scale to Hinkley in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk”.

“This new project would revive the nuclear history of Wylfa and bring thousands of jobs and investment to the area, boosting the local economy,” it said.

The government also said it is “kickstarting talks with global energy firms” to explore the construction of the plant.

“We are powering ahead with the biggest expansion of nuclear energy in 70 years,” said Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Claire Coutinho. “Anglesey has a proud nuclear history and it is only right that, once again, it can play a central role in boosting the UK’s energy security.”

The UK government aims to grow nuclear energy capacity to 24 GW by 2050, with a mix of traditional large-scale power plants and small modular reactors (SMRs). Last year, the government and the new Great British Nuclear (GBN) arms-length body set up to help deliver that extra capacity began the selection process for which SMR technology to use. In October, EDF, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Holtec, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse were invited to bid for UK government contracts in the next stage of the process.

GBN CEO Gwen Parry-Jones said: “Having agreed to purchase the Wylfa site earlier this year, GBN looks forward to working with the government on the market engagement programme for large-scale gigawatt providers and also delivering this vital project in the years to come.”

“The government is absolutely right to pursue more large-scale nuclear alongside the SMR programme: it is proven technology that delivers clean, sovereign power and can transform communities with thousands of high-quality, long-term jobs and apprenticeships,” said Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association. “Wylfa is an ideal place for a big nuclear project, and the community knows nuclear.

“We welcome the government’s engagement with potential partners internationally, and we urge them to move forward at pace. A large-scale project at Wylfa would be the single biggest inward investment in Welsh history, and a huge step towards both energy security and net-zero for the whole country.”

The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said it “will liaise with government in its role as the independent regulator to ensure the highest standards of safety, security and safeguards within the industry and for the public. The UK has a highly respected regulatory structure and we have been preparing for the expansion of new nuclear in this country for some time.”

Wylfa was the biggest and last Magnox site to be built in the UK. Its twin 490 MWe reactors began commercial operation in November 1971 and January 1972, respectively. Unit 2 was permanently shut in April 2012, with unit 1 following in December 2015. Defuelling of the plant was completed in September 2019.

Hitachi’s Horizon Project – launched in 2009 – was to develop two UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor units at Wylfa Newydd with the intention to develop the company’s nuclear business in the UK. However, it decided to suspend the project in January 2019, from the viewpoint of its “economic rationality as a private company” because it was clear that further time was needed to decide on a financing structure for the project, and the conditions for building and operating the nuclear power plants. In January 2021, Horizon withdrew its application for planning consent for the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant.

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