Plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations are in disarray after a second company in two months announced that would stop work on the projects.
Hitachi said yesterday that it was suspending its nuclear development programme in Britain, placing on hold plants at Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn in south Gloucestershire. The Japanese company is writing off £2 billion spent on preparatory work and is withdrawing despite having been offered several sweeteners by the government.
Greg Clark, the business secretary, revealed that the government had offered to take a one-third equity stake in the £15 billion Wylfa plant, finance the borrowing needed to build it and give a guaranteed price of £75 per megawatt hour for its electricity, well above the rate needed by offshore wind farms.
Hitachi had been seeking a better subsidy but Mr Clark said the costs of renewable energy had fallen so sharply that he could not justify more support.
The government is developing a new method of financing new nuclear power stations and promised to publish proposals in the summer.
Toshiba, another Japanese company, scrapped the Moorside nuclear project in Cumbria in November.
Most of Britain’s nuclear power stations are nearing the end of their lives and only one is under construction, by the French and Chinese companies EDF and CGN, at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The loss of Hitachi and Toshiba means that a decade from now Britain faces a large hole in its electricity generating capacity, with no clear plan on how to fill it, possibly forcing a greater reliance on China. CGN and EDF are already planning plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex.
Justin Bowden, national secretary for energy at the GMB union, said: “Hitachi’s announcement, coming so soon after the Moorside fiasco, raises the very real prospect of a UK energy crisis. While the government has had its head up its proverbial backside over Brexit, vital matters like guaranteeing the country’s future energy supply appear to have gone by the wayside.