MPs from the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee have welcomed the government’s ambition on nuclear energy and urged it to move ahead with a proposed nuclear power station at Wylfa.
The Committee has said in a new report on Nuclear Energy in Wales that concrete commitments on the future of nuclear energy are lacking, particularly at Wylfa on Ynys Môn (Anglesey).
“There are two historic nuclear sites in Wales, at Wylfa on Ynys Môn and Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd,” the report says. “Hitachi/Horizon Nuclear Power attempted to bring new gigawatt-scale reactors to Wylfa Newydd, land next to the decommissioned Magnox reactors. However, Hitachi withdrew from the development in 2020 after failing to reach a financing agreement with the UK Government. The land is still managed by Horizon Nuclear Power through Hitachi.”
The UK government’s ambition is for a quarter of energy to come from nuclear by 2050, and the Committee said that a new nuclear project at Wylfa would be ”a game-changer for the north Wales economy.”
However, “limitations of financial models” and the failure of the Hitachi-led Wylfa Newydd project in 2019 have set back the progress of nuclear power in Wales. The Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, previously used to support nuclear energy, could be replaced by a regulated asset base (RAB) model which could reduce the overall cost of a large-scale nuclear project by £30 billion compared with CfD, the Committee said.
The Committee is monitoring the RAB model used at the Sizewell C nuclear site, as there are concerns that it could increase the potential liability of the taxpayer. MPs also want Hitachi to sell the Wylfa site or join with other developers to advance the project.
A new nuclear site at Wylfa could support 10,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs once operational. The Committee said skills and supply chains would need to be developed to support such a large project. The current skills shortage in the UK means that more than one new nuclear site could not be constructed at once.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) should also be pursued in tandem with gigawatt-scale reactors, the Committee said, with opportunities for their development at Trawsfynydd in North Wales. In March, US company Last Energy signed an agreement to supply 24 of its modular micro nuclear power plants to the UK.
Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, the Welsh Affairs Committtee Chair, said: “Over the last couple of decades Wylfa has been in a state of limbo. Local people have been enthusiastic about the potential investment to the area only to have been left disappointed when Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa Newydd project.” Crabb added: “We cannot allow the same to happen again.”
A new nucelar power station at Wylfa was still “far from certain”, Crabb said, with important obstacles remaining in financing and land ownership.