UK selects Wylfa as preferred site for third nuclear power station

Article by Amanda Jasi

THE UK government has selected Wylfa in Anglesey as its preferred site for the nation’s third large-scale nuclear power station. It brings the UK a step closer to its ambition of quadrupling nuclear power capacity to 24 GW by 2050.

Site of the closed Magnox nuclear power station, Wylfa could once again contribute to the UK’s energy capacity as it seeks to supply a quarter of its projected energy needs from homegrown nuclear.

The government said the site’s nuclear heritage and proximity to water make it ideally suited to host a nuclear power plant.

Talks are ongoing with global energy companies to explore building a plant that could provide enough clean and reliable power for 6m homes for 60 years. The build would be similar in scale to Hinkley Point C in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk, which recently made headlines as it was granted the first site licence for a nuclear project in more than a decade.

The Wylfa project is expected to revive the site’s nuclear history and bring thousands of jobs and investment to the area. Tom Greatrex, chief executive of trade body Nuclear Industry Association, said the move would represent “the single biggest inward investment in Welsh history”.

Sue Ferns, deputy general secretary of the trade union Prospect, added: “Gigawatt scale new nuclear power stations are vital to hitting net zero and for our energy security. But they also maintain well paid and highly-skilled jobs, meaning this project would be a major boost to the Welsh economy.

“Now we need a laser-like focus on delivery of new nuclear to make sure skills and experience are not lost, and costs are reduced as we progress.”

Announcement of the site selection follows the UK’s launch of a national nuclear skills strategy.

Claire Coutinho, secretary of state for energy security and net zero, said: “We are powering ahead with the biggest expansion of nuclear energy in 70 years.

“Anglesey has a proud nuclear history, and it is only right that, once again, it can play a central role in boosting the UK’s energy security.”

Meanwhile, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr wrote on X: “Damaging UK obsession with nuclear power continues. Planning for a 3rd large reactor. Presumably because Hinkley Point is going so well.”

Project developer EDF announced further cost hikes and delays to the Hinkley Point C project in January. Meanwhile, Sizewell C is still seeking private sector investment. 

Wylfa’s nuclear history

Wylfa was home to the last and largest of the UK’s Magnox nuclear power stations, which generated 1,000 MW of energy. It comprised two reactors, one of which was switched off in 2012, with the other following in 2015. Defueling was completed in 2019 and the site is now undergoing decommissioning.

The selected preferred site is adjacent to the Magnox facility and was previously set for a new nuclear project that was being developed by Japanese company Hitachi. In 2020 they withdrew from the project for financial reasons stemming from the Covid pandemic. Hitachi also dropped plans for another station at Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire, which was to come under the same project.

Great British Nuclear, focused on supporting the nuclear industry, announced that it was acquiring both sites earlier this year, marking the first time the UK had acquired land for new nuclear since the 1960s.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.