Purpose of the inquiry
In January 2019, work was suspended on the development of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station at Anglesey. The Welsh Affairs Committee conducted an inquiry into the implications of this suspension for the surrounding economy and for the UK’s nuclear capabilities.
In the final report, the Committee calls on the UK Government and Hitachi – the Japanese company responsible for the development – to capitalise on the site’s distinct geological benefits and the skills of people working in the area by exploring new financing models that might help get work back underway.
It also calls on the UK and Welsh Governments to consider a range of possible future sustainable energy projects in North West Wales.
The report also recommends
- If Hitachi is not prepared to resume development of the site, the UK Government should encourage it to sell the site to another developer who might be willing to resume works. It should also seek out companies to develop alternative low carbon energy projects;
- The UK Government, Welsh Government, local authorities and other partners should work together to ensure that other projects in the North Wales Growth Deal are funded and accelerated to fill the gap left by Wylfa Newydd;
- The UK Government, Welsh Government and developers work together to develop a proposal for small modular reactor at Trawsfynydd;
- Government and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority should explore future opportunities for apprentices in the decommissioning of the old Wylfa and Trawsfynydd sites to help their skills stay in North Wales
Commenting on the report, Chair of the Committee David T.C. Davies MP said:
“The development of the Wylfa Newydd site was vitally important to Anglesey and the whole of North West Wales, and the announcement that works would be suspended was a blow to local communities and the local economy.
My Committee heard that the ideal geographic conditions and abundance of skilled workers makes the Wylfa Newydd site fertile territory for nuclear development, while the wider area is ideal for a range of low carbon projects.
Our report calls for the Government to capitalise on these benefits by ensuring that a range of possible energy projects can be developed on the site.”
Key conclusions and recommendations
Resuming works at Wylfa Newydd
Throughout the inquiry, the Committee consistently heard that the site at Wylfa Newydd has distinct geological advantages that make it ideal for nuclear development. One witness even said that the site was understood to be “one of the best sites in west Europe, if not in the whole of Europe, for building nuclear power stations.” The Director of Nuclear Operations at Horizon – the subsidiary of Hitachi responsible for the redevelopment of the site next to the old Wylfa nuclear power station – also shared the view that the site had unique advantages.
- The Committee therefore urges the UK and Welsh Governments to make every effort to ensure that works can resume on the site, or alternative energy projects can be brought forward in the surrounding area such as a low carbon energy project.
- The Committee also recommends that the Government’s analysis of the regulated asset base model (RAB) focus on whether it could resolve the Hitachi’s financing concerns around Wylfa Newydd.
- The Committee recommends that if RAB could deliver nuclear at Wylfa Newydd, the Government should bring forward legislation to implement it.
- The Committee recommends that if Hitachi is unwilling to resume works, the Government should prompt it to sell the site and help to encourage more willing developers to purchase it.
Providing high value jobs
While Horizon has committed to supporting the 33 apprentices taken on to work at Wylfa Newydd, the Committee is concerned that their skills will be lost to North Wales if job opportunities in the energy sector are not available in the area.
- The Committee therefore recommends that the benefits of the Trawsfynydd site are capitalised on through the development of a proposal for a small modular reactor to help sustain the local economy and retain the skills base.
- The Committee heard that Trawsfynydd’s geological characteristics has the potential to bring high value jobs to the local economy.
- The Committee urges the Government and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to explore all opportunities for apprentices in the decommissioning of the old Wylfa and Trawfynydd reactors to help their skills stay in North Wales
Supporting the local economy
The Committee expresses serious concern about the effect of the suspension of Wylfa Newydd for the surrounding economy. The Wylfa Newydd development was expected to create 850 jobs onsite, as well as an estimated 8,000 jobs throughout the construction phase.
Ken Skates AM, Minister for the Economy and Transport in the Welsh Government told the Committee the halt of works at Wylfa Newydd would be a ‘major blow’ for the surrounding economy if it would be permanent.
The Committee also notes that Wylfa Newydd was a key plank of the proposal for a North Wales Growth deal. The Committee stresses that, if works cannot be resumed, other proposals to boost the surrounding economy must be brought forward and accelerated as soon as possible.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Talsarnau Times