Hitachi’s decision to suspend work on the Wylfa nuclear power plant has heightened concerns over energy security in the UK, as government looks to reduce its use of reliable energy sources.
The UK’s programme of nuclear construction, which was set to contribute a significant proportion of British power in the future, is now hanging by a thread after Hitachi’s decision, which follows a similar decision by Toshiba to quit a nuclear project in Cumbria last year.
“As the second cancellation of funding for a new nuclear plant in as many months, it leaves in doubt the UK’s ability to replace its existing nuclear fleet,” Matthew Fell from the Confederation of British Industry said.
As of 2025, all but one of the UK’s existing nuclear reactors will begin closing, as will existing coal-fired power plants, leaving a vast gap in the UK’s energy mix.
The UK Government will be forced to reassess its energy strategy amid its plans to phase out reliable energy sources, which has seen the closure of Rough, the largest LNG storage site. Questions have since been raised over the UK’s ability to fulfil demand during peak demand.
The UK’s energy supply has come under further pressure after its capacity market, designed to ensure there is always enough supply to meet demand through contracts worth £6 billion handed to coal gas and nuclear plant, was deemed illegal by the EU. This means power plants producing reliable electricity could close earlier than expected.
Meanwhile countries around the world are working to remove nuclear from their energy mixes, including France which has recently accelerated its shift away from the power source due to growing concerns over its fleet.
Japan is another country that is reducing its reliance on nuclear. Of the 42 commercially viable units available in Japan, only 4 are in use as all reactors had to be relicensed after a new regulator was set up following the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Despite the global concerns over the industry, the UK Government continues to peruse the growth of the nuclear sector as part of its energy mix.
British MP Greg Clark said: “We will continue to champion the nuclear sector in North Wales, which is home to world-leading expertise in areas such as nuclear innovation and decommissioning and offers ideal sites for deploying small modular reactors.”