British officials announced Friday the companies who would be building a new nuclear power plant — a huge step forward in completing the $14.5 billion project.
The venture, called Wylfa Newydd, would build several new nuclear reactors in Wales, which could be online by the mid-2020s. The reactors would generate up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, supplying up to 7 percent of the U.K.’s electricity. The government claims the new reactors are essential for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Building the reactor will create up to 8,500 construction jobs and the plant itself will support 1,000 permanent jobs injecting “tens of millions of pounds per year into the local economy once it is up and running through direct employment and the demand for goods and services,” according to Horizon Nuclear Power, which will oversee construction. The reactors will be built by Hitachi Nuclear Energy Europe, Ltd., Bechtel Management Company, Ltd. and JGC Corporation (UK) Ltd.
“I am pleased to see that Wylfa Newydd in Wales is progressing. We have to replace our ageing energy infrastructure and new nuclear is an essential part of our plan to power the country now and for the next generation,” Andrea Leadsom, the U.K.’s energy minister, said in a public statement. “Keeping the lights on is non-negotiable, and new nuclear is the only proven low-carbon technology that can provide clean, continuous power, irrespective of whether the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.”
America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The average plant employs between 400 and 700 highly skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economies, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Despite the announcement, nuclear power has been on the decline in Britain, and the country has started decommissioning reactors to comply with environmentalist pressures. A 2012 YouGov poll showed 63 percent of U.K. respondents agreed nuclear reactors should be part of the country’s energy mix, up from 61 percent in 2010. Opposition to nuclear power fell to 11 percent from 15 percent.
The wind power which environmentalists want to replace the U.K.’s reactors with is nearly four times as expensive as electricity from existing nuclear power plants, according to analysis from the Institute for Energy Research. The rising cost of subsidies is passed to ordinary ratepayers, which has triggered complaints that poor households are subsidizing the affluent.
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