Spring Budget: government unveils purchase of nuclear sites

The government is buying two nuclear sites from Hitachi for £160m, reviving hopes for a new large-scale nuclear project.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Spring Budget today (6 March) that the UK’s state-owned nuclear business, Great British Nuclear, agreed a deal to purchase Hitachi’s Wylfa site in Ynys Môn, Wales, and its Oldbury-on-Severn site in South Gloucestershire, earlier this week.

The sites are being bought as part of the government’s plans to explore options for a new nuclear scheme in addition to Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.

Although no decisions have yet been made on projects, Hunt said the Wylfa site will play a “vital role” in delivering the government’s nuclear ambitions.

The Wylfa nuclear power station generated electricity for more than 40 years before decommissioning started in 2015. Hitachi pulled its plans for a £20bn replacement nuclear power station on the site in 2021, citing a lack of government funding.

A Hitachi spokesperson said: “I can confirm that Wylfa and Oldbury are in the process of being sold to Great British Nuclear.

“They are two of the premier locations for nuclear in the UK and we are pleased that the sites will play an important role in the UK energy transition for decades ahead.”

Hunt also confirmed that the six companies chosen to progress to the next stage of a government competition to design small modular reactors have been invited to return tenders by June this year.

The shortlisted companies are: EDF; GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy International LLC; Holtec Britain Ltd; NuScale Power; Rolls Royce SMR; and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Ltd.

Hunt said: “We want nuclear to provide up to a quarter of our electricity by 2050 and as part of that I want the UK to lead the global race in developing cutting-edge nuclear technologies.”

Bob Anstey, nuclear sector director at Costain, commented: “To meet the UK’s domestic energy requirements over the coming decades, accelerating our ability to generate safe, low-carbon and sustainable electricity, is essential.

“Small modular reactors will play an important role alongside larger plants, and we are sure that the civil nuclear industry will be encouraged by the signals from the chancellor.

“At the same time, there are pressing infrastructure and skills shortfalls that need to be addressed to ensure these initiatives land on fertile ground.

“We know from working on complex civil nuclear projects that collaboration is key to delivering successful and cost-efficient projects, and it will be even more crucial if we want to make the next generation of clean, affordable energy a reality.”

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said in January it would consider building another large nuclear power station if it could raise enough funds for a new power station at Sizewell C.

The department also committed to quadrupling the UK’s nuclear power generation to 24GW by 2050.

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