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Proposals For A New Nuclear Plant In Wales Pick Up Momentum As Ministers Overhaul Energy Plan

Wylfa Newydd

3 min read

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, PoliticsHome understands.

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.

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 excerbating 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.

PoliticsHome is told Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng supports 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 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 told PoliticsHome.

"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".

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. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is leading talks about the Wylfa Newydd proposal, has been contacted for comment.

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".

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