Large-scale gigawatt nuclear power plant planned for North Wales

27th May 2024
Paige West

Wylfa in Anglesey has been designated by the government as the preferred site for the UK’s third mega-nuclear power station.

This positions North Wales to benefit economically and supports the UK’s long-term energy security.

The government initiated discussions with global energy firms to explore building the new power plant, which could provide enough clean and reliable power for approximately six million homes for 60 years. This project brings the UK closer to its goal of sourcing up to a quarter of its projected electricity needs from homegrown nuclear power by 2050, enhancing the nation’s energy independence.

The government considered constructing a major nuclear power station at Wylfa, similar in scale to Hinkley in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk. This new project would revive Wylfa's nuclear history and bring thousands of jobs and investment to the area, boosting the local economy.

Wylfa, located on the North Wales coast, is ideally suited for this project due to its proximity to cooling water and its nuclear heritage.

Great British Nuclear, tasked with delivering the world’s fastest small modular reactor competition, recently secured Wylfa and Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire as two potential sites for new nuclear projects. This marked the first time since the 1960s that the government acquired land for new nuclear developments.

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Claire Coutinho, said: “We are powering ahead with the biggest expansion of nuclear energy in 70 years.

“Anglesey has a proud nuclear history and it is only right that, once again, it can play a central role in boosting the UK’s energy security.

“Wylfa would not only bring clean, reliable power to millions of homes – it could create thousands of well-paid jobs and bring investment to the local area.”

The UK is delivering the biggest expansion to nuclear power in 70 years and suitable sites will be critical to meet ambitions to quadruple nuclear capacity by up to 24GW by 2050. This will come from a mix of traditional large-scale power plants and small modular reactors, which can be rolled out more quickly and at scale.

Meanwhile Great British Nuclear aims to announce successful bidders for the small modular reactor competition by the end of this year.

Gwen Parry-Jones CEO of Great British Nuclear said: “Having agreed to purchase the Wylfa site earlier this year, GBN looks forward to working with the government on the market engagement programme for large scale gigawatt providers and also delivering this vital project in the years to come.”

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said: “This is significant and welcome news for Wales that promises to bring thousands of high-quality jobs to the local economy.

“Alongside the revival of nuclear power at Wylfa, recent measures we have announced include a Freeport for Anglesey, £17 million in Levelling Up money for Holyhead and electrification of the North Wales rail line which show that the UK government continues to deliver for Anglesey and for North Wales.”

Sue Ferns Senior Deputy General Secretary of Prospect union said: “Wylfa represents the best site in Europe for a large-scale nuclear power station. With this announcement this has now been recognised by the UK government.

“Gigawatt scale new nuclear power stations are vital to hitting net zero and for our energy security. But they also maintain well paid and highly skilled jobs, meaning this project would be a major boost to the Welsh economy.

“Now we need a laser-like focus on delivery of new nuclear to make sure skills and experience are not lost, and costs are reduced as we progress.”

Tom Greatrex Chief Executive of the NIA said: “The government is absolutely right to pursue more large-scale nuclear alongside the SMR programme: it is proven technology that delivers clean, sovereign power and can transform communities with thousands of high-quality, long-term jobs and apprenticeships. Wylfa is an ideal place for a big nuclear project, and the community knows nuclear.

“We welcome the government’s engagement with potential partners internationally, and we urge them to move forward at pace. A large-scale project at Wylfa would be the single biggest inward investment in Welsh history, and a huge step towards both energy security and net zero for the whole country.” 

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