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Wylfa: SMR chief says not the 'end of the road' for nuclear site on Anglesey

Hitachi blow is not the “end of the road” for Wylfa says the chief at the UK’s consortium behind SMR nuclear reactors – but warned the funding model had to change.

Hitachi announced last September they were withdrawing as investors in Wylfa Newydd.

This month they pulled the plug on the planning application for the £16bn plant.

Talks had been taking place with potential new investors but it is understood none of these have moved close to any concrete offer.

Hitachi said that “in the absence of a new funding policy from UK Government” they were moving forward to winding up their nuclear vehicle Horizon Nuclear Power.

While not a shock the latest move has dealt a final blow to Horizon’s ambitions and hopes that the plant could help boost the economy of Anglesey and beyond.

 

But the Interim Chief Executive Officer at UK SMR Consortium Tom Samson spoke to Business Live and gave the message that the site itself remains very much on the agenda for SMR.

UK SMR aims to accelerate deployment of a fleet of small modular reactor power stations across the UK and is led by Rolls-Royce.

He said: “Nuclear can absolutely play a huge role on Anglesey – this is the end of the road for Hitachi but not the end of the road for Wylfa. This remains a good site for nuclear in the UK. Wylfa can be part of the nuclear future in the UK.”

But he said this latest failure showed that the way schemes are funded had to change.

He has first hand experience as chief executive of NuGen – which saw its nuclear scheme at Moorside in Cumbria halted when Japanese multinational Toshiba withdrew support.

Mr Samson said: “The current developer led model is broken, there is no point trying to repeat that, let’s come up with a different model.

“With SMR we have UK technology, we have lots of suitable sites, including two very good ones in North Wales, we have strong support from industry and UK Government, we now need to connect those dots.

“This is a smaller investment than a traditional nuclear plant and build costs will come down over the first few units.

“We are looking at an initial build out fleet of 10 and Wylfa, Trawsfynydd and West Cumbria could host that. We need Government to come up with a siting strategy and a commitment on that first order.”

Small modular reactors are a type of nuclear fission reactor which are smaller than conventional reactors. This allows them to be manufactured at a plant and brought to a site to be assembled

Mr Samson said deployment could come 10 years from that order commitment.

The consortium says it can add £52 billion of value to the UK economy by 2050 if a full fleet of 16 power stations is built and generate a £250 billion export market with job creation of up to 40,000 high-value jobs.

Ynys Mon MP Virginia Crosbie said: “Wylfa remains the best site in the UK for a nuclear power plant. New nuclear technologies such as SMRs and fusion are becoming more viable and established large-scale technologies are being refined all the time.

“The withdrawal of Hitachi – whilst extremely regrettable – does mean that we can explore some of these other options.

“Wylfa is not, by any means, off the table. I have been speaking – and will continue to speak with – Ministers, representatives of the nuclear industry and other stakeholders, in order to pursue my commitment to bring quality employment to the Isle of Anglesey.”

Wylfa nuclear power station

Image: Rolls Royce

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