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Horizon Nuclear Power, the firm which was building the Wylfa Newydd plant, said on Monday its would be winding down its operations after its parent company – Japanese conglomerate Hitachi – decided it could not continue.
Most of the workers building the site had been stood down since January 2019 after Hitachi paused the project following its failure to agree a funding package with the UK government.
Now, however, the technology and engineering giant has abandoned the scheme, which would have seen a new power plant capable of powering five million homes constructed next to a decommissioned facility on the north coast of Anglesey.
Up to 9,000 jobs would have been created on the island if the project had gone ahead.
Horizon’s chief executive, Duncan Hawthorne, said he knew the decision would be “disappointing” for many in Wales.
“In particular I would like to thank our lead host community of Anglesey in Wales, represented by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and Welsh Government.”
In a statement, Hitachi said the coronavirus pandemic had made it even harder than before to secure the necessary funding for the building to go ahead.
“Hitachi made this decision given that 20 months have passed since the suspension, and the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19.”
Politicians have reacted with consternation to the news. The Welsh government’s minister for economy and North Wales, Ken Skates, said the announcement was “deeply disappointing”.
“There has been a tremendous effort by Horizon Nuclear Power, Ynys Môn Council, the North Wales region and all our partners to bring this important project forward,” he said in a statement.
“Now is the time to continue with this strong partnership and build upon those efforts. We must not lose sight that Wylfa remains one the best sites in the UK for new nuclear development.”
The leader of Anglesey Council, Llinos Medi, said shutting down the nuclear project would hit the island’s economy hard.
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“This decision is a devastating blow to the Anglesey economy,” she said.
“The Wylfa Newydd project had the potential to transform the Anglesey and North Wales economy, particularly that of North Anglesey.
“I will now be calling for an urgent meeting with both UK and Welsh Governments to discuss the future of the Wylfa Newydd site.”
Mr Skates said the Welsh government would not give up on building a new nuclear power station on Anglesey and would explore all other options, including new companies overseas.
The MP for the island, Conservative Virginia Crosbie, said Hitachi’s decision was hasty, given the government was due to announce its final approval to build the plant on 30 September and would also soon release a white paper on energy.
“It is with great disappointment that I have received this news,” she said. “The timing of the news is regrettable.” She was already in talks with the business and energy secretary, the chancellor and the prime minister about the issue, Ms Crosbie added.
“I know that many people on Ynys Môn will feel disillusioned to hear that there has been another setback in the plans for Wylfa. However, I remain committed to my manifesto pledge to bring quality jobs, skilled employment and investment to Ynys Môn.”
But local campaigners against the nuclear facility have welcomed the news, arguing it was always excessively expensive and dangerous.
“A nuclear power station would have endangered lives on Anglesey and beyond, not just for our own generation but for generations to come,” People Against Wylfa B said.
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“It would have created tons of radioactive waste, with no solution to the problem of getting rid of the poison. It would have ruined the environment over an area which is ten times greater than the current site.”
A decade had been wasted by focusing on a second power plant in North Anglesey, the group said. “Anglesey’s economic future has been put in the hands of a few people in a room in Tokyo. The hopes of a generation of young people for work in their home area were shattered.”
Several of the government’s planned new generation of nuclear power stations, mostly built by private financing, have been scrapped in recent years.
The only project definitely going ahead, Hinkley Point, is controversial because not only are a Chinese state-owned company involved, but to facilitate it the government guaranteed to buy energy from the station at a significantly higher price than the wholesale market, effectively transferring much of the cost onto future consumers.
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