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MPs Call for ‘Concrete Action’ Over Welsh Nuclear Power Plant

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The UK government must take “concrete action” to facilitate the development of a new nuclear power station in Wales, a committee of MPs has argued.

The Welsh Affairs Committee of the House of Commons said on Wednesday, “Concrete commitment by ministers on the future of nuclear energy, and in particular at Wylfa in North Wales, is lacking despite positive policy signals.”

In its latest report, the committee urged the government to secure the financial and land ownership agreements needed for the proposed Wylfa Newydd project to go ahead.

The £20 billion gigawatt-scale development on the Anglesey coastline is said by the report to be vital to the government realising its ambition for nuclear energy to meet up to a quarter of UK electricity demand, around 24GW, by 2050.

The aim is part of the UK government’s plan to enhance energy security and deliver on net zero.

Cross-party committee members also championed the project as a levelling-up opportunity for a rural part of the country, saying it could be a “game-changer” for the region’s economy.

The Wylfa project could support 10,000 jobs during the construction phase and 900 permanent jobs once the power station is operational, according to evidence heard by the committee.

But major obstacles remain in the way of securing capital investment for the project, the report warned.

Rising costs and a failure to reach a financial agreement with the UK government led to the formerly Hitachi-led development being suspended in January 2019.

The continued ownership of the site by Hitachi’s UK subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power is seen as a further barrier to progress, and the committee called on the government to encourage the company to sell it or join other developers to enable a future development to proceed.

‘State of Limbo’

Stephen Crabb, the Conservative chair of the committee, said: “Over the last couple of decades Wylfa has been in a state of limbo. Despite the positive policy changes and stronger rhetoric from ministers about nuclear, a new power station at Wylfa is still far from certain.

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Stephen Crabb, then secretary of state for work and pensions, arrives for a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, on July 12, 2016. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

“Important obstacles remain on financing which is limiting private sector investment, and on the issue of land ownership which is preventing a new developer coming in.

“We must see concrete action on addressing these issues before the next general election, otherwise the uncertainty about the project will increase.”

Crabb said a new nuclear energy project at Wylfa would be “a game-changer for the North Wales economy.”

“The enormous investment would illustrate levelling-up in action, creating well-paid, high-skilled jobs, and we would be a step closer to energy independence,” he said.

But the committee’s view was criticised by a group called People against Wylfa-B, which has been campaigning against plans for a new nuclear plant at the site for decades.

Group member Linda Rogers told the BBC: “For some reason the Welsh Affairs Committee, despite all the problems outlined with nuclear, say we still want the uncertainty around it solved and they say we can’t go with renewable because of a lack of storage.

“Well, we can invest in storage, we can invest in a flexible grid. It’s so much cheaper and safer and quicker than nuclear and of course we don’t have the massive legacy, toxic legacy, of waste to hand over to future generations.”

‘Strong Support’

In response to the committee’s report, a UK government spokesperson said: “Nuclear is a key part of our energy security and our plan to deliver lower energy bills.

“The recently launched Great British Nuclear, alongside wider government support, will be delivering these ambitions including how we look to secure access to new nuclear sites with Wylfa being a contender given the strong support it has from the local community.”

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EDF’s Sizewell B nuclear power station is pictured in Sizewell, eastern England, on Sept. 1, 2022. (Chris Radburn/AFP via Getty Images)

In the British Energy Security Strategy, published in April 2022, the government set out plans to boost Britain’s domestic energy production including nuclear, low-carbon hydrogen, wind, and solar.

In his Spring Budget delivered in March, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said the government will launch a Great British Nuclear scheme to “bring down costs” and “provide opportunities” in the supply chain, with a view to nuclear power providing 25 percent of the UK’s electricity by 2050.

He called nuclear a “critical source of cheap and reliable energy” which complements wind and solar power, which fluctuates as the weather changes.

Hunt confirmed that the government would class nuclear power as “environmentally sustainable,” giving it access to the same investment incentives as renewable energy.

He reiterated an announcement made in the autumn to invest £700 million in the Sizewell C nuclear power station planned in Suffolk.

Owen Evans and PA Media contributed to this report.

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