Welsh nuclear reactor plan generates sparks

6 Jun 18

A signal by the government that it may invest in a multi-billion pound Welsh nuclear reactor has angered critics of its energy strategy and supporters of green power.

Wylfa Newydd power station in Anglesey could cost more than £15bn to build and  be part funded by the taxpayer, energy secretary Greg Clark told the Commons on Monday

“The government will be considering direct investment alongside Hitachi alongside Japanese government agencies,” he said.

Clark stressed that plans were still in formation and that “no decision has yet been taken to proceed.”

The energy secretary said that nuclear power had previously received cross-party support, and claimed that the focus of talks with the Japanese company was “achieving lower-cost electricity for consumers.” 

He added: “Hitachi’s reactor design has been delivered on time and on budget in Japan.”

The shadow energy secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said the announcement was a “surprising shift away from the government’s ideological position against government investment in new energy infrastructure.”

She pointed to the failings of the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor project – scheduled  for completion by 2025 – and concerns about how the financing will be negotiated, highlighting “the lack of transparency or parliamentary scrutiny thus far.”

The Public Accounts Committee previously found that the government failed to get value for money on the Hinkley Point C project.

Long-Bailey also raised fears that the Anglesey investment could spell the end of government plans to invest in the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon renewable energy plant – a decision that would be “frankly outrageous”.

The deputy leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack, said: “[Swansea Bay] would have produced cheap, locally sourced energy, created jobs in the community and made South Wales a nationwide leader in green technology.

“Instead, the Conservatives are ploughing money into a nuclear energy plan that is neither environmentally sustainable nor financially sound.”

Duncan Simpson, policy analyst at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “The Hinkley Point C debacle demonstrates how poor government is at managing the need for more nuclear power.

“The use of direct taxpayer support for construction of this reactor could leave taxpayers exposed to potential losses.”

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