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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 18 February, 2019
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Construction on a Welsh nuclear power station 105 km from Ireland is being frozen

Hitachi says it is shelving the project “at this time”.

The location of the planned station across the Irish Sea.
The location of the planned station across the Irish Sea.

HITACHI HAS FROZEN construction of a nuclear power station in Wales due to financing difficulties, dealing a major blow to Britain’s energy strategy and leaving the Japanese firm with a huge bill.

The Wylfa Newydd plant is located at Cemaes Bay on Anglesey island off the Welsh coast, about 105 km from Dublin.

The shelved project will cost Hitachi 300 billion yen (€2.5 billion), it said in a statement.

Britain has put nuclear power at the heart of its low-carbon energy policy, in stark contrast to Europe’s biggest economy Germany which is phasing it out in the wake of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In addition to Hitachi’s announcement, its Japanese peer Toshiba last year pulled the plug on a nuclear power plant in northwest England.

Franco-Chinese project Hinkley Point C, Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation, is currently being built across the Bristol Channel from Wales.

Hitachi launched the three-trillion-yen Wylfa Newydd project after acquiring British-based Horizon Nuclear Power in 2012.

The UK government had agreed to take a one-third equity stake in the project, alongside investment from Hitachi, Japanese government agencies and other strategic partners.

But fund-raising efforts fell short.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the parties have not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned,” Hitachi said.

As a result, Hitachi has decided to suspend the project at this time… as it is now clear that further time is needed to develop a financial structure” for it.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said nuclear still had “an important role to play as part of a diverse energy mix” in Britain.

‘Unstable environment’

The unwelcome news for the UK comes as Prime Minister Theresa May reels from a parliamentary defeat over her Brexit deal but Hitachi CEO Toshiaki Higashihara told reporters that Britain’s looming EU departure had had “no bearing” on the decision.

Nevertheless, one analyst said Brexit would make it harder to attract long-term investment such as in nuclear plants.

Speaking to AFP ahead of the announcement, John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at US professional services giant Marsh, said “cross-border investors in infrastructure are looking for stability in the legal, regulatory and political climate”.

© – AFP 2019

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