Talks have begun between the UK Government and Japanese giant Hitachi on plans to build Wylfa Newydd.
Business Secretary Greg Clark told the Commons on Monday evening that the Government will consider whether to commit public money for the £12 billion project – but there’s no decision yet on whether it will go ahead.
Work on the new nuclear power station could begin within two years. But developers Horizon also need to gain full planning permission and secure financial support, including investment from the Japanese government.
Mr Clark said it remained the Government’s long-term objective that new nuclear projects should be financed by the private sector:
He added: ”This is an important next step for the project, although no decision has been taken yet to proceed with the project, and successful conclusion of these negotiations will be subject to full Government, regulatory and other approvals, including but not limited to value for money, due diligence and state aid requirements.”
”Alongside our discussions with developers we will be reviewing the viability of a regulated asset base model as a sustainable funding model based on private finance for future projects beyond Wylfa, which could deliver the Government’s objectives in terms of value for money, fiscal responsibility and decarbonisation.”
Up to 8,500 construction jobs could be created if the project goes ahead. Last December, design plans for the reactor were approved following a stringent five year assessment by regulators.
Welcoming the announcement, First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said Wylfa Newydd had ”the potential to transform the Welsh economy” but called for the Welsh Government to play its part in negotiations.
He said: ”The decisions made at a UK and Japan level will have a direct impact on Wales and we expect the UK Government to work more closely with us to ensure that every opportunity is realised from this huge project in order to secure lasting benefits for Wales.”
”I have been consistently clear that Wylfa Newydd is one of the defined priorities for this Government term and we will do everything possible to ensure that this project delivers a lasting legacy for Wales.”
Welsh Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, said: ”There are few challenges more important than securing a sustainable energy future as part of our modern Industrial Strategy. By entering into negotiations, the UK Government is also highlighting the attractiveness of Wales as a place to do business and invest.”
”This would be the biggest infrastructure project in Wales for a generation and could bring significant benefits to the economy through increased high-quality employment and supply chain opportunities.”
But opponents to the project have hit out at the announcement. Outgoing Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said the Government was ”utterly failing on energy policy” and taking a ”step further towards a calamitous mistake.”
She said: ”Taking a stake in this nuclear monstrosity would see taxpayers locked into the project, and paying out for a form of electricity generation that’s not fit for the future.”
Greenpeace accused the Government of bailing out on a ”disastrous project before construction has even begun.”
Head of energy Kate Blagojevic said: ”The notion that new nuclear will be good value for money is farcical when it’s so much more expensive than cleaner, safer renewable alternatives that are faster to build.”
”The economics are so weak that private investors have refused any involvement…this should be a red flag to the Government that it is a terrible deal.”
Last week, the local campaign group Pawb (People Against Wylfa B) travelled to Japan to present a 6,000-strong petition against the plans to the country’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
Earlier last month, Japanese press reports claimed the UK Government was prepared to offer £13.3 billion in financial support with UK taxpayers owning a third of the project – the claims were denied by Downing Street officials.
Labour MP for Ynys Môn, Albert Owen MP said he welcomed Monday’s statement as both positive and in the long-term interest of the island.
He said: ”It’s about low-carbon energy, about quality jobs and about the biggest investment in Wales.”
”If we are serious about tackling climate change, then we need to be serious about new nuclear as part of a low carbon energy mix with renewables and also energy efficency.”