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Options for Wylfa after Boris Johnson says nuclear plant ‘is going to happen’

Prime minister Boris Johnson has thrown his support behind plans to build a nuclear power station at the Wylfa site on Anglesey – but it remains to be seen exactly what form the proposed power plant would take.

During a council election campaign visit in north Wales on Monday, Johnson said he wanted to “get going on Wylfa in the next couple of years”, adding that “it’s going to happen”.

Johnson said: “We need to get the right type and we need to make sure that we go ahead with the right model. We want to make sure we get the right deal for the UK taxpayer.

“But we also want to have something that’s really ambitious, and that is going to do justice to the scale of that Wylfa site.”

Johnson said there could be a “couple of reactors” put at the site.

Horizon Nuclear Power officially withdrew its planning application for a £20bn power station at Wylfa in January 2021 after funding challenges. Since then, various options have been considered.

The government has been in talks with two US firms, Bechtel and Westinghouse, with both interested in a scheme at the site.

Bechtel and Westinghouse are working on the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, USA and earlier this month the secretary of state for Wales Simon Hart met with representatives to discuss Wylfa proposals and attempt to move the process a step further.

Last year Bechtel claimed that its funding model for the proposed Wylfa power plant could provide an alternative to the previous developer-led approach to nuclear projects.

Bechtel’s proposal is for a two-year plan to deliver the front-end engineering design with government funding which could then “create the conditions” to attract potential investors and a developer.

Government-backed funding during the first phase of the project would allow a developer to recover pre-final investment decision costs and could be achieved through modification of the proposed RAB funding model or through another mechanism of cost recovery.

Once secured, the developer would then lead the project through the final investment decision, construction, commissioning and start-up.

Shearwater Energy director Simon Forster has also outlined his firm’s proposals to use both the existing Wylfa Magnox site – which is being decommissioned – and the Wylfa Newydd site for small modular reactors (SMRs).

In addition, Rolls-Royce is keen on using the site to install its SMRs. In March, the company submitted SMR designs for Wylfa and Trawsfynydd for assessment. However extensive safety checks are needed and these are not expected to come online until the 2030s. As such, the engineering giant has appealed to government to speed up the planning process.

Following Horizon’s withdrawl of its planning application, the decision was taken to push forward with a large-scale nuclear power plant at Sizewell C in Suffolk instead of Wylfa but the government’s Energy Security Strategy – published earlier this month – put the Anglesey site firmly back in the nuclear picture.

The strategy set out plans to boost nuclear energy, while also investing in wind, solar and hydrogen to combat the rising global energy prices, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In the strategy, the government said it will work to progress a series of projects as soon as possible this decade, including Wylfa site. This could mean delivering up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade.

The strategy also said “constructive negotiations” have been ongoing regarding Sizewell C since January 2021, as the most advanced potential project in the UK.

In January the government provided £100M of funding for the Sizewell C developer to invest in the project to help bring it to maturity, attract investors, and advance to the next phase in negotiations.

In addition, last month it was revealed that the government is set to take a 20% stake in Sizewell C.

Source: New Civil Engineer