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EDF insists nuclear has 'strong future' despite a halt on Welsh power project

PUBLISHED: 12:42 17 January 2019

A computer-generated image of how the Sizewell complex will look after construction of Sizewell C Picture: EDF ENERGY

A computer-generated image of how the Sizewell complex will look after construction of Sizewell C Picture: EDF ENERGY

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EDF Energy, which is planning a new twin reactor power station on the Suffolk coast, is convinced nuclear energy has a “strong future” – despite work stopping on a new multi-billion pound project.

Campaigners willbe watching the Hitachi Wylfa developments with interest. Left to right, Paul Collins, Charles Macdowell and Alison Downes from Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS)   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCampaigners willbe watching the Hitachi Wylfa developments with interest. Left to right, Paul Collins, Charles Macdowell and Alison Downes from Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS) Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Japanese firm Hitachi announced it was not continuing with work on a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on Anglesey in North Wales because it had not been able to reach agreement on financing and associated commercial arrangements.

Unions have urged the Government to step in and help take Wylfa forward – but environmental campaigners have called for a rethink of UK energy policy.

Campaigners, councillors and business leaders in Suffolk and Essex will be watching with interest to see if the problems have any impact on projects earmarked for Bradwell and Sizewell, both of which involve EDF Energy.

An EDF Energy spokesman said its new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset was making good progress, and a third round of consultations were under way for Sizewell C, showing that nuclear has a “strong future” in the UK.

How Sizewell C would appear from the beach at Sizewell Picture: EDF ENERGYHow Sizewell C would appear from the beach at Sizewell Picture: EDF ENERGY

A spokesman said: “More than 3,600 people are now working on the construction site at Hinkley Point C and the project is on track.

“The UK policy identifying the need for nuclear to play a role alongside renewables has been supported by numerous independent studies.

“Nuclear provides low-carbon electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. It will help lower overall energy costs to consumers as part of a balanced energy mix.”

Concluding the Financial Investment Decision for Sizewell C will be one of the final stages of the project and is still some years away, but work is already taking place on this in parallel with the consent and construction preparations.

Sizewell C project development director Jim Crawford said earlier this month that more than 10 companies have expressed interest in investing, including Dalmore Capital Limited and the Pensions Infrastructure Platform, which in June took stakes in 24 UK wind farms owned by EDF Renewables.

The Bradwell B plant project, which is being funded by China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), which is putting up 66.5% of the cost, and EDF Energy, is not as far advanced. Design work has been taking place for the past year along with marine surveys and preliminary ground investigations, but initial consultation is still some way off.

At Wylfa, Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive of Hitachi’s nuclear business, Horizon Nuclear Power, said: “We have made very strong progress on all aspects of the project’s development, including the UK design of our tried and tested reactor, supply chain development and especially the building of a very capable organisation of talented and committed people.

“We have been in close discussions with the UK Government, in co-operation with the government of Japan, on the financing and associated commercial arrangements for our project for some years now. I am very sorry to say that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned.”

Hitachi said it will also suspend work on another site, in Oldbury in Gloucestershire, “until a solution can be found”.

“In the meantime, we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future,” said Mr Hawthorne.

Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “Hitachi’s confirmation that no solution has been found for its UK nuclear programme tells you all you need to know about the economics of nuclear power.

“In the meantime renewable energy costs, especially offshore wind and solar, have plunged dramatically, while new smart technologies including storage have arrived on the scene.

“A clever move now would be for the Government to accept that the nuclear bet didn’t pay off, stop holding back renewables and have an urgent rethink about the future of UK energy.”

The Business Department said Business Secretary Greg Clark Clark will set out more detail on the Government’s approach to new nuclear as part of the planned Energy White Paper to be published in the summer.

Officials pointed out that the cost of renewable technologies is falling rapidly, with the cost of offshore wind halving over the last two years.

The department said there will be no implications to security of energy supply following the Wylfa announcement, adding: “The Government is committed to a dynamic energy market, with a range of options for meeting future energy demand, including renewables, storage, interconnectors, new nuclear and more.”

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