A consortium led by engineering firm Bechtel is in talks with the Government to take over the stalled nuclear power plant scheme in North Wales, from which Japan’s Hitachi withdrew in September.
The consortium – which also includes US utilities firm Southern Company and Westinghouse, the Preston-based nuclear engineering company whose reactors would be installed at the site on Anglesey – wrote to business secretary Alok Sharma in September expressing its interest in delivering the project, and discussions are being held.
The £20bn project to build the Wylfa nuclear power plant, along with a smaller plant at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire, was being taken forward by Horizon Nuclear Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi that it acquired in 2012 to advance nuclear development in the UK.
But Hitachi halted works on both projects in January 2019 and concluded in September this year that it was unable to progress the schemes for viability reasons.
The company said that “20 months have passed since the suspension, and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19”.
The Wylfa Newydd site sits beside the former Magnox Wylfa Power Station, which is now being decommissioned.
Westinghouse and Virginia-based Bechtel were both involved in previously stalled projects at the site before Hitachi, and Westinghouse’s reactor has regulatory consent for use in the UK after it was approved by the UK Government for a now abandoned project at Moorside in Cumbria.
If a deal is struck, development activity at Wylfa could resume. Anglesey Council’s economic development portfolio holder, Cllr Carwyn Jones, welcomed the news with “cautious optimism”.
He said in a statement to Place North West: “It’s positive news. I’m pleased that there is interest from the US and that the consortium is holding talks with the UK Government. If these talks remain positive, this could provide a credible means of reviving the Wylfa Newydd project to generate economic and environmental benefits.”
Jones added: “Anglesey, of course, had a constructive and positive working relationship with Horizon Nuclear Power and its parent company Hitachi.
“While in operation, Horizon built a strong and principled relationship with both the county council, and more importantly, the local community. It was keenly aware of local expectations and concerns, and we would certainly want to see this retained and embedded in any new consortium taking this hugely important socioeconomic project forward.”
Wylfa Newydd “is one of the best sites for new nuclear development in Europe and its future development has the potential to bring huge economic rewards and job opportunities for our young people over the next 60 years,” Jones added.
The project is a key part of Anglesey County Council’s Energy Island vision, a blueprint for putting Anglesey at the forefront of low carbon energy research and development, production and servicing.
The consortium partners said in their letter to Sharma that their prior knowledge of the site “could be leveraged to accelerate a plant project at Wylfa, as well as other sites across the UK”, the Financial Times reported.