Wylfa: Calls for UK government to “step up to the plate” as resolution talks begin

The Welsh minister responsible for infrastructure in the country has pledged to “pull out all the stops” to ensure the future of the Wylfa Newydd project is secured after Hitachi decided to suspend work on a £20bn nuclear power station in Anglesey.

Construction of the reactor was expected to bring about 10,000 new jobs to north Wales and lots of opportunities for young people with Welsh secretary Alun Cairns describing it as the “biggest infrastructure project in Wales for a generation".

But after investing £2bn into the scheme, the Japanese firm have pulled back after talks broke down with the UK government on the financial structure of the project and rising costs. 

Hitachi said the decision would cost it an estimated 300bn yen (£2.1bn) in expenses, plus another 300bn yen as "extraordinary losses”. The statement by the firm added the decision was made “from the viewpoint of Hitachi’s economic rationality as a private enterprise”.

In a bid to resurrect the £20bn scheme, the economy and transport minister Ken Skates will today be attending a North Wales Economic Ambition Board emergency meeting. Ynys Mon Council, the North Wales Region, Horizon and the Welsh Government will also be interested parties involved who have been working closely together on the project for a number of years.

Skates has said he is now seeking “urgent assurance” from UK ministers about its intentions of securing a funding model that will deliver major infrastructure projects like Wylfa Newydd.

He added: “The potential economic benefits of this project are huge and over the past few days I have sought reassurances from the UK government that they are doing everything possible to bring this project to Anglesey. I will continue to press the UK government to step up to the plate to ensure the project can be secured.”

While the first minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, said Hitachi’s decision to suspend work was “extremely worrying” for north Wales and the UK. 

“Our discussions with Horizon will continue with urgency,” he said. “But we need the UK government to step up and do everything possible to secure this project. We'll continue to press them to do so.”

Hitachi’s decision last week means Hinkley Point power station in Somerset is the only new UK reactor still being built after engineering giant Toshiba confirmed in November that it was pulling out of £15bn plans to develop a new nuclear power station in Moorside, Cumbria.

In response to the news, the business and energy secretary Greg Clark, revealed what support had been offered to Hitachi within the discussions. He also pointed to tighter safety regulations as one reason for the cost of most new nuclear projects increasing.

Speaking to the Commons, Clark said the UK government had offered to take a one third equity stake in the project, alongside investment from Hitachi and government of Japan agencies, while providing all of the required debt financing to complete construction.

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