Japanese technology firm Hitachi has acquired the Horizon Nuclear Power joint venture, which is aimed at building between four and six new nuclear plants and would create 12,000 construction jobs.
The joint venture, set up in 2009 by RWE and E.On, aims to provide power for 14m homes over 60 years.
The project was dealt a blow in March when RWE and E.On announced the sale of the £15bn joint venture, with the energy minister Charles Hendry warning that it must be bought within months to avoid a skills drain.
Mr Hendry said in May that it was “certainly disappointing” that the firms had pulled out, but insisted that he didn’t think it would derail the programme.
“This deal is a decades-long, multi-billion pound vote of confidence in the UK”
Prime minister David Cameron
Hitachi will progress with Horizon’s plan to build two or three plants at Wylfa on Anglesey, and the same at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
The first plant could be feeding electricity into the grid in the early 2020’s.
The first plant is expected to be 60 per cent sourced from the UK, with Rolls Royce and Babcock International having already signed Memorandums of Understanding with Hitachi.
It will also establish a module assembly facility in the UK.
6,000 jobs are expected to be directly supported during construction at each site, with a further 1,000 jobs at each when they become operational.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal was a “decades-long, multi-billion pound vote of confidence in the UK”.
He added that it “will contribute vital new infrastructure to power our economy - stimulating exciting new industrial investments in the UK’s nuclear supply chain”.
“I warmly welcome Hitachi as a major new player in the UK energy sector.”
WSP energy director Scot Parkhurst hailed the decision as “long-awaited good news”.
“Although Hitachi will now need to go through the Generic Design Assessment for its plant technology, which will delay the construction programme further, the acquisition should still improve confidence in the UK nuclear new build market for both suppliers and investors.”
The government will next month publish the Energy Bill, containing provisions for the reform of the electricity market.
Energy secretary Edward Davey said: “Hitachi bring with them decades of expertise, and are responsible for building some of the most advanced nuclear reactors on time and on budget, so I welcome their commitment to helping build a low carbon secure energy future for the UK. I particularly welcome Hitachi’s firm commitment to involve the UK supply chain and local workforce.
“New nuclear isn’t only about keeping the lights on and emissions down, it’s an industrial strategy with big potential wins. The Nuclear Industry Council I’m announcing today will play a crucial role in this, and I believe there’s the potential for the UK to become globally recognised as the go-to place for the next generation of nuclear.”
Welsh secretary David Jones called the announcement “terrific news for Anglesey and the whole of North Wales”.
He went on: “I have visited Wylfa many times and know there is a wealth of nuclear expertise and eager young apprentices on Anglesey; they can now look forward to a secure future of well-paid, high quality employment.”
Hitachi plans to build Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, in what the Department for Energy and Climate Change says will bring diversity in reactor design.
Nuclear Industry Council to be set up
Energy secretary Ed Davey also today announced the establishment of a new Nuclear Industry Council, which will be chaired jointly by government and industry, to develop the UK nuclear industry.
Mr Davey and business minister Michael Fallon will both sit on the Council, as will Nuclear Industry Association chairman Lord Hutton.
The Nuclear Supply Chain Action plan is due to be published later this year, aimed at maximising UK economic gain from nuclear, including employment and business opportunities.