Nuclear: Wylfa site should be next in line for power station, say MPs

Wylfa has the base of a long-standing nuclear power station which was in the process of being decommissioned. Credit: ITV Wales

Wylfa should be the next site for a nuclear power station, according to politicians in Westminster.

The recommendation was made my MPs and Peers on the Cross-Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear Energy.

It said choosing the site on Ynys Môn was key if the UK Government is to meet its target of large-scale nuclear power stations producing 24 gigawatts of energy.

The group said the Conservative-led government in Westminster must give the site its backing during this Parliament and start negotiations as soon as possible in order to meet that ambition.

A report produced by the cross-party group of politicians described Wylfa as the “best site in Europe for large-scale nuclear."

Wylfa, which has a former nuclear power station, was described as the “best site in Europe for large-scale nuclear." Credit: PA

There has long been talk about the proposed project in north Wales, which the parliamentary group argues would create high-quality jobs on Ynys Môn.

That is disputed by local campaign group People Against Wylfa-B. It said claims over the number of jobs possibly created are exaggerated.

The project has been a source of heated debate from its inception more than a decade ago.

It would be based at an already-existing nuclear power station which was in the process of being decommissioned.

Similar suggestions about getting the project off the ground have been made before by politicians without anything happening. New nuclear projects were first given the go-ahead in 2009 by Gordon Brown's Labour administration, with Wylfa agreed as one of the sites a year later.

Japanese firm Hitachi was successful in its bid to develop the site but withdrew in 2020 following a dispute over financial backing.

The nuclear energy group in Westminster argues there will be a 15 gigawatt nuclear gap which will need to be filled once Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and the first Small Modular Reactors come online.

It said a combination of large and small-scale reactors will be needed to make up for the shortfall, with a project at Wylfa playing a key part.

Artists impressions have previously been made of plans for the plant at Wylfa. Credit: Horizon/Artist impression

Politicians have recommended the creation of a cross-departmental taskforce to determine which type of reactor technology would be best at the site, as well as choosing a partner to deliver the project.

The report also covered the possibility of a small module reactor at Trawsfynydd in Gywnedd.

Politicians also said Wales would benefit more widely from a new British nuclear programme, with it "breathing new life" into industrial heartlands and creating high-quality jobs.

MPs and Peers in Westminster have made the suggestion Wylfa should be next location for a nuclear power plant. Credit: PA

Conservative MP Virginia Crosbie, who represents Ynys Môn and is the nuclear energy group's secretary, said: “It has everything going for it, including a willing and skilled host community that is eager to see nuclear return to the island and all the benefits that would bring for many years to come."

She added the UK Government needs to "get on" with building the power station, arguing it would improve energy security and the environment, as well as helping the local community.

Meanwhile, vice chair Liz Saville Roberts, who is the Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster, said: “The best use of Wales’s two nuclear licensed sites - Wylfa and Trawsfynydd - is essential if we are to grasp the urgent need to increase the contribution of nuclear power to the net zero energy mix.

“Wylfa is ideal for large-scale generation, and should be safeguarded for such use if further gigawatt reactors are backed, while Trawsfynydd is the perfect site for small modular reactors or an advanced modular reactor."

Ms Saville Roberts added: “I urge the UK Government and Welsh Government to work together to make the best use of these opportunities to bring net zero, social and economic benefits to the communities of north Wales.”

Opposing the move, the leader of the Green Party in Wales, Anthony Slaughter, said: "A new nuclear power station at Wylfa would be nothing but an expensive distraction and in no way an answer to the energy crisis and the climate emergency."

He added: "We need to be reaching net zero as a matter of urgency, even by the mostoptimistic and highly unlikely timetable new nuclear would take a decadeto be up and running."

In response to the recommendation, a spokesperson from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: "We welcome this report and share their ambitions for nuclear power in the UK."

They added: “Wylfa is a candidate for new nuclear, and one of several potential sites that could host civil nuclear projects. We will consult later this year on a proposed way forward for determining how new nuclear developments might be located, including the potential for SMR [Small Modular Reactors] and other advanced nuclear technologies.”

Analysis from ITV Wales' Political Correspondent Adrian Masters:

The story of plans to build a new nuclear power station on Anglesey is long and full of controversy, failures and false dawns.

It was in 2009 that the then Labour UK Government gave the go-ahead to new nuclear projects and 2010 when it was agreed that Wylfa would be one of the sites. 

As the long-standing base of a nuclear power station that was in the process of being decommissioned, it had the advantage of support from sections of politicians and the public both on the island and elsewhere in Wales. 

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts is amongst those pushing for the move. Credit: PA

That was the case even when Plaid Cymru was officially opposed to new nuclear power stations, and when senior figures in Welsh Labour were split over whether to support it.

There was well-organised public opposition too, co-ordinated by People Against Wylfa-B (PAWB).

The Japanese firm Hitachi won the bidding to develop the site but pulled out in 2020 following a dispute over financial backing. 

It’s left the project with an uncertain future despite repeated promises from former Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said that he wanted to "get going on Wylfa in the next couple of years.”

More recently, Rishi Sunak told BBC Wales that Wylfa is a “fantastic site,” hinting that it could be named a preferred location for a new nuclear power station. 

But the fact is that 13 years on from the first time the project was given the go-ahead, it remains no closer to becoming a reality. 

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