Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Power Station

Anika Mohindra
March 12, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Wylfa Nuclear Power Station. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In December 2017 the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation along with two other governmental bodies approved plans for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on the island of Anglesey in North Wales, ending a five year proposal process. [1] Aside from Hinkley Point C, which is currently under construction, Wylfa is the furthest along of the UK nuclear projects seeking funding. [1] Wylfa, displayed in Figure 1, was the site of the oldest operational nuclear power plant in the UK until it was shut down in 2015. [1] The new Wylfa project is being developed by Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, using its proprietary advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) technology. [1] It is expected to cost £10bn and boast 2.7GW capacity, just below Hinkley Point C's 3.2GW capacity. [1]

Growing Asian Involvement

Wylfa is one of several Asian plays for a share in the UK nuclear landscape. China's General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) holds a sizable stake in Hinkley Point C and has plans to expand beyond Hinkley in the future. [2] Japanese conglomerate Toshiba led construction at Moorside in Cumbria but had to pull out because the bankruptcy of its US nuclear subsidiary, Westinghouse, threw the company into financial turmoil. [3] It was replaced by South Korean state-owned Kepco. Hitachi acquired Horizon in 2012 in order to compete with China's growing presence in the UK nuclear scene, and Horizon itself plans to build another station at Oldbury in Gloucestershire pending the success of Wylfa. [3]

Hybrid Financing Model

Hitachi has spent £2bn on development so far, and needs to obtain financial support by mid-2018 in order to continue development. [1] The UK previously declined to allocate additional public funds toward new nuclear reactors, but lessons from Hinkley Point C have forced it to reconsider. The Hinkley plant relies on French and Chinese investors but burdens taxpayers through a price floor stipulated by the "contract for difference" model, exposing taxpayers to high risk and high cost. [4] The UK National Audit Office released a report in 2017 saying the government should have contributed to funding efforts in order to relieve some of the consumer burden and access cheap debt to reduce capital costs. [4]

Thus, the UK and Japanese governments are now looking into a hybrid financing model falling between the Hinkley model and full government financing. Japanese sources have reported that the governments will each contribute ¥1.1 trillion as well as acquire stakes in Horizon. [5] Hitachi is especially insistent on reducing its stake in Horizon to below 50 percent so that its financials are not consolidated with Hitachi's. [5] This demand is likely prompted by fear of repeating the earlier Toshiba disaster, wherein Westinghouse's massive deficits nearly destroyed its parent company.

Alternative Renewable Sources

There is increasing disfavor for the Wylfa plant, as nuclear projects worldwide have often run over budget and beyond expected timelines. Meanwhile, other renewable energy sources have gotten much cheaper, especially offshore wind. [5] The price of offshore wind has reached a historic low, and wind farms are much cheaper and faster to build than nuclear plants. [5] Moreover, they come without the radioactive waste disposal concerns central to nuclear plans. However, various leading UK figures including energy minister Richard Harrington still staunchly support nuclear power, saying that it is important for the energy landscape and that the UK cannot rely solely on other renewable sources. [1]

Popular Coverage

Wylfa has spurred both significant dissent and significant support from the Welsh citizenry. The debate was quite literally brought to center stage by the Welsh national language theater Theatr Genedlaethol, which staged a play called Hollti ("Split" in English) about Wylfa. [6] The script was composed solely of interviews from various figures including scientists, workers, and opposers. [6] It touched on the effects of Wylfa on its neighbors, the surrounding farmland, and the job market among other topics. Popular coverage such as this play reflect increasing interest in and concern about nuclear power and the future of energy generation.

© Anika Mohindra. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. Vaughan, "Plans for Major Nuclear Power Station in Wales Win Green Light," The Guardian, 14 Dec 17.

[2] H. Watt, "Hinkley Point: The Dreadful Deal Behind the World's Most Expensive Power Plant," The Guardian, 21 Dec 17.

[3] A. Vaughan, "Korean Energy Firm Rescues UKs Moorside Nuclear Power Project," The Guardian, 6 Dec 17.

[4] A. Ward and J. Pickard, "UK and Japan Look at Public Finance for Wylfa Nuclear Plant," The Financial Times, 16 Jan 18.

[5] T. Sasai, "Tokyo, London Fully Behind Hitachi Nuclear Project in Britain," The Asahi Shimbum, 11 Jan 18.

[6] H. Thomas, "Play Tackles New Wylfa Nuclear Power Station Arguments," BBC News, 3 Aug 17.