New Nuclear Plant In Wales?
Adam Payne / Kevan James
March 16, 2022.
There is growing momentum within government for a new nuclear plant in north Wales as part of plans being worked up to produce more domestic energy. Reviving the proposal for a new plant in Anglesey at a site called Wylfa is among the options being considered by ministers ahead of the publication of the government's energy plan next week, writes Adam Payne for PoliticsHome.
In October Boris Johnson said he was "looking at Wylfa as well as lots of other projects" as part of his ambition to increase domestic energy production. The Prime Minister added that previous governments had failed to take "tough decisions" on expanding nuclear energy in the UK.
With Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine exacerbating a rise in global gas prices, which in turn is driving a wider cost of living crisis at home, ministers are now increasing efforts to ramp up domestic energy production and reduce the amount of gas and oil imported from Russia. A government source on Monday said there would be a "big focus" on nuclear in the strategy paper.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is said to support the push for a new nuclear plant in north Wales, which would be developed at the site of a decommissioned plant, while Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse are also vocal backers in Cabinet.
A proposal to develop a new nuclear plant in Anglesey collapsed early last year when UK company Horizon Nuclear Power withdrew a request to have designs approved. Japanese firm Hitachi, which was also involved in the project, had pulled out a few months prior to that after failing to reach a funding agreement with the government.
Since then, government officials have held discussions with two groups about building the plant: a consortium led by US firm engineering firm Bechtel, and UK company Shearwater Energy. A senior Tory MP who is familiar with those recent discussions said they were "well developed" and that there had been growing "noises" from Downing Street about a deal being reached.
Virginia Crosbie, the Conservative MP for Ynys Môn where the proposed nuclear plant would be based, said Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine had "really focused the minds" on energy security and that an "enormous slice" of it would be provided by a new nuclear plant at Wylfa.
"I am determined to get Wylfa Newydd over the line to bring the investment and jobs Ynys Môn needs and I believe world events are bringing it closer by the day," she said. "The mood music is very good. But I am not complacent. As everyone knows, I never stop making the case for Wylfa Newydd. That will not change until a deal is done".
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive at the Nuclear Industry association, said Wfyla is "one of the best sites for new nuclear in the UK, with the potential to be a low carbon powerhouse".
"It is very encouraging to see it at the front of the government’s thinking for development as we seek to strengthen our energy security, wean ourselves off imported gas and guarantee a secure, sovereign supply of electricity".
Yesterday The Financial Times reported that extending the life of the Sizewell B nuclear plant in Suffolk by 20 years was another option being considered by ministers.
© Adam Payne / PoliticsHome
Image via PoliticsHome
That it has taken an outright threat to the west from the east to have focussed ministerial minds on the UK's energy needs shines the spotlight on decades of neglect by successive UK governments over the country's need to be less reliant on importing gas and oil (as well as other sources of energy).
For far too long, complacent politicians have pandered to the shouty histrionics of those who suggest fossil fuels must be eliminated, along with equally loud commentary from those with vested interests otherwise.
Yes, we must pay attention to the needs of the world we live on; it is also true to say that we have been terribly destructive in our way of living (and that's without killing each other in wars). But 'Net Zero' is currently nothing more than fantasy, a horrendously expensive one and one that perhaps one day, may become realistic. But that day is not today.
This government has, as the Prime Minister might say, spaffed untold billions up the wall on the alter of a health pandemic that now appears to have been not as drastic as thought. It now has to spend further mind-boggling amounts on increased defence spending, on housing a never-ending stream of illegal immigrants as well as housing genuine refugees from Ukraine. Both Labour and Conservative governments have merrily engaged in wall-spaffing with abandon on pet projects and things that look good in the papers.
Yet none have really, truly, got to grips with what the country needs.
Is it too much to ask that we find politicians who actually understand what the value of money is, who have at least some grasp of the reality of life for those who grant those same politicians their well-funded jobs and who are faced with never-seen-before rises to the cost of merely staying alive?
And who will look beyond the relatively short term of their political careers, abandon instant gratification, do what is right for the UK as a whole and over the long term?
It doesn't seem an unreasonable thing to ask.