Simon Hart says Wylfa is near top of potential sites for new nuclear plant

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During a visit to a nuclear power plant in the United States last April, Simon Hart, the Secretary of State for Wales, was surprised by the “staggering scale” of the construction of a reactor in Atlanta , in the state of Georgia.

But he told a Welsh Affairs Committee meeting earlier this week that Wylfa is “probably near the top” of potential new reactor sites.

In November 2021, the UK government announced that the UK would invest £210 million in small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

READ MORE: Welsh government firm says construction of Trawsfynydd reactor could start in 2027

Matching funding would come, they said, from private investors. The Trawsfynydd site in Gwynedd and Wylfa on Ynys Môn are potential sites.

Hart said he spent time with “developers” in Atlanta (April 7).

According to the American press, the cost of building two nuclear reactors in Atlanta has skyrocketed. According to a news agency, the initial cost has since doubled.

Simon Baynes, the MP for Clwyd South, asked Hart what “unexpected information” Hart had gleaned in Atlanta.

Hart seemed surprised at the “size of development” there, he explained, which he called “breathtaking”, adding that he had only seen one type of reactor.

“There is a world of difference between sitting in Westminster with officials from another government or another company and actually seeing the work on the ground. What was there was phenomenal. I think there were 8,000 people on the site when we were there — something in that area. It is a colossal operation.

Baynes commented that many had “expectations” that Wylfa Newydd would be built. But with that plan vanishing into thin air, Baynes wanted to know: “What lessons have been learned from past mistakes or past experiences at Wylfa, which then guide the government on the next step?”

An impression of the mothballed Wylfa Newydd power plant

Hart said: “What has changed since the first round is the awareness of what energy security really looks like, especially in the Ukrainian period of our history – hopefully after Ukraine in due time.”

The UK government has pledged to build eight small modular reactors (SMRs) by 2050.

Hart told the Committee: “Wylfa, if he’s not on top, is probably on the top of the list of potential sites. In other words, if we don’t launch Wylfa, the others will be really tough.

According to Hart, “With all of these things, we’re talking about a project that could take 10 or 12 years to come to fruition, with very many environmental and regulatory challenges along the way and a multi-billion funding challenge, likely involving at least at least two governments and many private sector contributors as well.

“It’s a long way to go. We are lower than we have ever been when it comes to Wylfa.

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