US nuclear consortium “has a plan” for Wylfa with “exploratory talks” with the British government

A US nuclear consortium “has a plan” to build a large nuclear power plant in Wylfa – with the UK government saying “exploratory talks” have taken place.

Westinghouse says the Anglesey site is the “perfect location” for a new nuclear site, while partner Bechtel, a US engineering giant, has made a proposal.

It would be based on a nuclear program in Georgia in the US – although that project has been followed by long delays and the price has doubled from the original cost estimate.

Speaking to the Welsh Affairs Committee, a senior government official said initial discussions were being held with consortia interested in demolishing a nuclear power plant in Wylfa.

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Horizon / Hitachi withdrew from developing the website after failing to reach an agreement with the UK government to fund the project.

Barbara Rusinko, President of the Nuclear, Safety and Environment Department at Bechtel, said: “It is considered the best location in the UK to build a large nuclear power plant.

“Our team has a plan to facilitate building on the most advanced nuclear technology available today, the Westinghouse AP1000.

“It is able to deliver clean electricity by 2035 according to the latest CO2 budget commitments. It can be transformative for Anglesey. “

She said it “strengthens the transatlantic security partnership” and unlocks the “economic potential that exists in Anglesey and in the Welsh communities”.

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The plans are based on the Vogtle plant in Georgia, where two further reactor blocks are due to go into commercial operation in 2022.

These units are said to be the first large commercial nuclear reactors to be built from scratch in the US in the past 30 years.

But development is affected by delays and rising costs.

Vogtle’s two additional units were originally scheduled to be ready in 2016 and 2017, while costs rose from $ 14 billion to a potential final price of $ 27 billion.

Customers in Georgia pay 11% additional energy costs to finance the location.

Ms. Rusinko said the failure of Wylfa Newydd shows the need for “more government intervention” in the UK to get these projects on the line.

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She said they had developed an approach to capitalize on the support and said she needed the UK government to “show commitment” to the spending review.

She said they needed “front-end design” investment funded by the UK government to “kickstart” Wylfa.

David Durham, President of Energy Systems at Westinghouse, said it was “the safest reactor in the world” and was specifically designed to deal with “station blackouts,” where all alternative power connections are cut, as was the case at Fukushima.

He said it was unlikely that nuclear power plants would ever be built that were not part of a regulated market backed by state or national governments.

One of the reasons nuclear energy is expensive, he said, is that “everything has to be precise” because of safety issues.

He said that, even with government support, they “took” significant risks and did not impose all of the costs and risks on the UK government and UK tax and utility bills.

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Lindsay Roche, director of government affairs at Westinghouse UK, said the “geography and geology” of the area makes Wylfa a “perfect location”.

She said it would be a modular build approach with the work spread out across North Wales and beyond.

This would reduce the number of construction jobs based on Anglesey, but also reduce the pressure on the island’s infrastructure during this construction period.

She said the UK government had the chance to “be ahead of the game” on nuclear energy or to rely on international markets and importing power.

Ms. Roche said there had been “good talks” with the UK government and they asked for “modest funding” (tens of millions) to take the first steps forward.

She added, “This is a project that can stimulate the economy and affect the regional economies of Anglesey, North Wales and North West England.”

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Declan Burke, director of nuclear projects and development for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said the previous offer to Horizon / Hitachi was a third of the equity stake to provide funding and an exercise price for 35 years from £ 75 (per MWh) – but they failed to reach a commercial settlement.

He added that while a very significant offer had been made to Hitachi / Horizon, there was a point where ministers were “unwilling to go beyond that, even though we all really wanted this project to work”.

Artist’s impression of the planned Wylfa nuclear power plant on Anglesey

He said that as website owners they keep in regular contact with them but understood that they are “moving to other areas” which makes it unlikely that they would revive their own interest in Wylfa Newydd.

He said conversations with new developers so far have been “exploratory” so they can learn more about the proposals and how they could be funded.

When asked about potential taxpayer liability from Aberconwy MP Robin Miller, he replied that taxpayer and consumer costs were “at the forefront of our thinking” and were part of those exploratory discussions with potential developers.

He added, “We absolutely believe that nuclear energy would be a very critical part of Net Zero, but it has to work from a taxpayer perspective as well.”

He said they are looking at the regulated asset-base model, which is where investors generate income due to the huge cost and long investment duration during construction.

This would come from consumers and / or taxpayers before the facility is completed.

He said calibrating the funding mechanism gives investors confidence and protects the consumer as well.

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