Government in talks over purchase of Wylfa nuclear site

The government is in talks to buy the Wylfa nuclear site from Hitachi.

The UK’s state-owned nuclear business, Great British Nuclear (GBN), is in “early-stage discussions” with Hitachi over the sale of the 20.8-hectare site in Anglesey, as first reported by the Financial Times.

GBN hopes to find a new private sector partner to develop a nuclear station there and kick-start nuclear development in the UK.

The vast majority of the UK’s nuclear production is set to go offline by the end of the decade, with the government under increasing pressure to boost its nuclear energy portfolio. Last month, it drew up a roadmap to increase nuclear output from 6.5 gigawatts of energy to 24 gigawatts by 2050, after more than 50 MPs demanded it commit to a nuclear expansion programme last year.

Currently, Hinkley Point C in Somerset is the only nuclear project under construction, and is running more than £10bn over budget with a further two-year delay mooted last month. The government has also granted permission to Sizewell C, but is awaiting the external investment needed for work to begin. It also said in its roadmap that it would consider building another nuclear plant once funding for Sizewell C was secured.

Hitachi was planning to build a nuclear site at Wylfa, but scrapped its development plan in 2021, blaming government funding policies as the reason for withdrawing its funding application.

But there has been longstanding interest in reviving the project from pension-fund investors. In 2021, one prospective investor told a government committee that “big” UK-based investors were “very keen to invest” in the site.

Although the land is thought to be worth around £200m, figures in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero expect Hitachi to accept a lower price, as the site has been unused for so long.

A spokesperson for the government department said it had “ended the stop-start approach to nuclear” and that its roadmap would “[simplify] regulation and [shorten] the process for building new power stations”.

Wylfa is “one of a number of potential sites that could host civil nuclear projects”, they said, but added that “no decisions on sites have yet been taken”. However, they confirmed that they are working with GBN to look to access sites for new nuclear projects.

A Hitachi spokesperson said: “We own two of the premier locations for nuclear new build in the UK and we will continue to speak with interested parties about the future for the sites.”

Hitachi’s other location is understood to be the Oldbury nuclear site in south Gloucestershire, where decommissioning works are ongoing.

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