Welsh Secretary Simon Hart hopes US trip will 'nudge' Anglesey nuclear power station plans closer

Simon Hart would like to see Anglesey nuclear power plans come a step closer. Credit: PA Images

The UK Government’s Welsh Secretary says he’s "hoping and planning" for proposals for a new nuclear power station on Anglesey to come a step closer this week.

Simon Hart made his comments as he left for a trip to the United States, which includes a visit to a plant operated by two companies interested in developing the Wylfa scheme.

Energy generation ended at the previous Wylfa power station in 2015. Subsequent plans to build a new plant, known as Wylfa Newydd or Wylfa B, collapsed in 2020 when the Japanese company behind it pulled out.

Plans to build a new plant, known as Wylfa Newydd or Wylfa B, collapsed in 2020. Credit: Horizon/Artist's impression

The UK Government is due to announce its new energy strategy on Thursday. It’s reported that ministers intend it to focus on a major expansion of nuclear power and wind power, although the cabinet is said to be split over any proposed expansion of onshore windfarms.

During his visit to the US, Simon Hart will be visiting the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, which is being built by the firms Westinghouse and Bechtel.

The companies have been in talks with the UK Government about reviving a plan for a nuclear power station on Anglesey.

Speaking from Heathrow before he flew to the US, the Welsh Secretary hoped his visit would "try and nudge the whole future of nuclear a little bit closer to the line."

He added that he wanted to help build trust with the companies.

Wylfa power station on Anglesey in 1971. Credit: PA Images

"It’s going to be billions of pounds," Mr Hart said.

"It's going to require trust and confidence on both sides and my task this week is to continue to build that trust, so that when and if we get the go-ahead from BEIS [The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] and Number 10, and there's a clear way forward, then there's sufficient faith between the two countries for us to be able to bring this to a conclusion.

"It's got huge economic and energy potential - not only for the island of Anglesey, but our whole Wales and the wider UK, so we're really keen to make this happen. This week is part of the journey to that."

He said the Energy Strategy could also see another type of nuclear energy being developed in Wales.

Rolls Royce is working on plans for small nuclear reactors, one of which could be based at another former nuclear site, Trawsfynydd, in Snowdonia National Park.

Simon Hart will be visiting a nuclear power plant in Georgia as part of his trip. Credit: PA Images

"There's a big statement being made by Kwasi Kwarteng on Thursday about where nuclear fits in the UK energy strategy," Mr Hart added.

"We're hoping and planning that that's going to include a big development on Wylfa and possibly some SMR developed around Trawsfynydd as well.

"But we're meeting the American part of this equation later later this week to give them the confidence that we're serious about this as being part of our energy mix and part of our energy security ambitions.

"We've also got some other interesting projects around small modular reactors, which would fit nicely with the Wylfa project as well. That's actually around the old nuclear location at Trawsfynydd, with which people are familiar.

"So there's a number of different ways in which we can build a sort of nuclear cluster in north Wales, which is safe, clean energy, and it's also going to be a transformational opportunity for the local economy too."

Anti-nuclear protesters at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Credit: PA Images

Plans for new nuclear power stations on the site of decommissioned plants are seen in the context of the jobs that they’d create, and are often said to be supported by people living nearby for that reason.

They’re not without controversy though. The organisation People Against Wylfa B (PAWB) continues to campaign against any new developments.

Last month PAWB said it would "continue to highlight that nuclear power is a dirty, outdated, dangerous, vastly expensive technology which threatens both human and environmental health.

"It would also steal much-needed resources from renewable technologies which are cheaper, much quicker to build and more effective to combat the effects of climate change," it said.