The Japanese industrial giant has confirmed it is to end business operations in nuclear power plant construction in the UK, sounding the death knell for its Wylfa Newydd plant on Anglesey.
Wylfa, along with a smaller plant at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire, were being taken forward by Horizon Nuclear Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, which was acquired in 2012 with the purpose of advancing nuclear development in the UK.
Hitachi put a stop to works on both projects in January 2019, and has concluded that the schemes are beyond salvation under its watch.
The company said the decision was made “given that 20 months have passed since the suspension, and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19”.
The leader of Anglesey Council, Cllr Llinos Medi, said Anglesey’s wider ambitions in the energy sector remain a priority, but accepted that Hitachi’s departure is a crushing blow.
She said: “This decision is a devastating blow to the Anglesey economy. The Wylfa Newydd project had the potential to transform the Anglesey and North Wales economy, particularly that of North Anglesey.
“The County Council, through its Energy Island programme, had worked closely with both UK and Welsh Governments and other key stakeholders over a number of years to facilitate the Wylfa Newydd project.”
“Whilst Energy Island continues to work with other energy developers, the Wylfa Newydd project was seen as a huge enabler to create substantial jobs and supply chain opportunities. I will now be calling for an urgent meeting with both UK and Welsh Governments to discuss the future of the Wylfa Newydd site.”
Hitachi halted work in 2019 as it said it “was clear that further time was needed to decide on a financing structure for the project”. Horizon maintained the capability to remobilise in the event that a new financing model was re-established, keeping “live” more than ten years of stored project data and knowledge, applications for permits and licences and a small core team of staff and contractors.
Horizon said it will now take steps for the orderly closing down of all its current development activities, but keep the lines of communication open with Government and other key stakeholders.
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.
“In particular, I would like to thank our lead host community of Anglesey in Wales, represented by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and the Welsh Government. Nuclear power has a critical role to play in helping to tackle our energy needs, meeting our climate change targets and levelling up the economy through green growth and job creation.”
He added: “Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn are highly desirable sites for new nuclear build. We will do our utmost to facilitate the prospects for development that will bring the major local, national and environmental benefits that nuclear can deliver as we push to transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.”