Wales must maintain nuclear industry, says parliamentary committee

27 July 2016

The proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant can deliver value for money, a UK parliamentary committee looking into the future of nuclear power in Wales has concluded. Meanwhile, it says the Trawsfynydd site is a "standout candidate" for locating a first-of-its-kind small modular reactor (SMR).

The Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs launched an inquiry into nuclear power's future of in Wales in January. Since then, six evidence sessions have been held, hearing from 33 witnesses. Members of the committee also visited the two main nuclear sites in Wales - Wylfa and Trawsfynydd. The committee has taken into consideration the decommissioning of shut down plants, the construction of the new plant at Wylfa and the UK government's plans for the development of SMRs. It has now published its conclusions and recommendations.

"Nuclear power has a long history in Wales, supplying power to large parts of the nation and providing thousands of people with well-paying jobs," the report said. "Wales has played a key part in establishing the nuclear industry in the UK, having hosted two first generation nuclear reactors for the past half a century. However, the future for nuclear power in Wales is uncertain. Both the [Wylfa and Trawsfynydd] power stations are now closed, and therefore Wales no longer has any operational nuclear power plants."

The committee noted Horizon Nuclear Power's plans to build a new nuclear power plant at the Wylfa site on the Isle of Anglesey. However, it said it had received conflicting evidence on the potential cost of the new plant. The committee said it is reassured that the taxpayer will be protected from excessive costs, "as the risk of investment is placed on the developer".

"Without the nuclear power industry, there is little prospect of many high-quality, well-paid jobs in the area, which will negatively affect the local economy."

Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs

The report said the UK's energy policy should "balance cost against energy and environmental concerns". It added, "We recommend that the government negotiate a strike price for Wylfa Newydd below that agreed for Hinkley Point C and seek a price that would be competitive with renewable sources, such as on-shore wind. The government should not continue with the project if the price is too high."

"We believe that Wylfa Newydd can deliver value for money and deliver a significant portion of the country's future energy needs," the committee concluded. "To achieve this, the developers and the government will need to manage potential delays and bottlenecks, to keep costs down and the project on schedule."

The report recommends the UK government puts in place a contingency plan "to fill the gap in the energy supply" if there is a delayed start to the Wylfa Newydd project.

"The nuclear industry has made a major contribution to the economy of North Wales, and Wylfa Newydd would make a strong contribution in the future," it said. "Without the nuclear power industry, there is little prospect of many high-quality, well-paid jobs in the area, which will negatively affect the local economy."

The committee said it is surprised the government's plans for nuclear skills development in the UK does not have "a Welsh dimension". It recommends the UK government sets out plans to create a North Wales campus for the National Nuclear College, announced in May this year.

SMR for Trawsfynydd

Last November, the government announced plans to invest at least £250 million ($352 million) over the next five years in an "ambitious" nuclear research and development program to include a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK.

"It is clear that Trawsfynydd would be an ideal site for a first-of-a-kind SMR," the committee suggests. "The availability of cooling water and the grid connections mean it would meet the technical requirements, and its history as a nuclear site and its ownership by the government mean that it would be easy to designate it as a site for SMR development. The presence of a skilled workforce, which is strongly in favour of the project, would also be a major boost to SMR development."

North Wales is well positioned near centres of nuclear excellence in north-west England and needs investment to stimulate the economy, the report said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News