UK Energy Crisis After Anglesey Collapse
Does Hitachi’s decision to scrap plans to build the Anglesey nuclear plant signal the start of a UK energy crisis? The Japanese company Hitachi announced on 17 January that it will be suspending plans to build a £20bn nuclear power plant in the Wylfa Newydd area of Anglesey. This decision is down to the increased construction costs the company is facing and will affect several thousand planned construction jobs at the Wylfa Newydd facility.
The power plant was being constructed by Horizon, a subsidiary of Hitachi, and the company has been negotiating funding for the project with the UK government since June 2018. The Hitachi share price dipped considerably to 3,412 JPY in early trading on the news, but bounced back to reach 3,477 JPY by the end of the day.
Horizon planned to build two reactors which would have involved employing around 9,000 workers for construction alone. The reactors were anticipated to be operational by 2025.
Hitachi has commented that this decision will cost their business around £2.1bn (300bn yen) which will be noted as “extraordinary losses” in the company accounts. A spokesperson said that the project is being suspended: “from the viewpoint of its economic rationality as a private enterprise”. The company has also stated it will be suspending work at its Oldbury, Gloucestershire site until “until a solution can be found“.
Six Nuclear Licenses
At this moment there are six new sites that have been licensed for the building of new nuclear plants and eight plants currently operational. Duncan Hawthorne who is the chief executive of Hitachi’s Horizon subsidiary stated that the site in Anglesey is still: “the best site for nuclear development in the UK” and that Horizon would “keep the option to resume development in future“.
It was intended that this new Anglesey site would have an operating life of 60 years and would generate up to 2,900 MW of power. This decision follows on from Toshiba scrapping its plans to build a new nuclear facility at Moorside, Cumbria.
Critics of the government’s nuclear strategies have commented that the situation has “escalated into a full-blown crisis“. The principal reason for this is that seven out of the eight existing plants in the UK will be decommissioned by the year 2030. There are presently 15 reactors in the UK, and they generate around 21% of all electricity produced. The sector also employs around 15,500 people. According to Geoff Bowden, the national secretary for energy at the GMB Union, this decision has raised “the very real prospect of a UK energy crisis. While the government has had its head up its proverbial backside over Brexit, vital matters like guaranteeing the country’s future energy supply appear to have gone by the wayside“.
The full impact of Hitachi’s decision remains to be seen as it will affect Horizon’s existing supply chains and the organisations hired to provide construction services. It’s understood the UK government is gradually moving to a belief that renewables offer the best solution to the UK’s future energy requirements.