Greenpeace warns UK stake in new nuclear at Wylfa breaches EU competition rules

Greenpeace UK believes plans announced by the government this week to take a one-third stake in a proposed new nuclear power plant, Wylfa Newyydd in Wales, may be illegal under EU competition rules. It said it would seek “urgent clarification” and called on the government to carry out a full consultation before a deal is signed.

The proposal, announced in parliament earlier this week, would reverse longstanding government policy against taking ownership of major infrastructure. (The announcement came just hours before the government sold down a stake in RBS that it acquired during the banking crisis of 2008. The sale realised about £2.5 billion – but the government sold at around half the 502p at which it acquired the shares.)


Plant owner Horizon Nuclear Power responded to secretary of state Greg Clark’s announcement has now submitted an application for a Development Consent Order.

In addition, Horizon has submitted applications for a marine licence, Operations Combustion permit, Operations Water Discharge permit and Construction Water Discharge permit from Natural Resources Wales.

Kate Blagojevic, head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, said of the project: “The economics are so weak that private investors have refused any involvement and the government is having to bail out this disastrous project before construction has even begun. This should be a red flag to the government that it is a terrible deal.”
“Hitachi and private sector investors are all balking at the cost, and even the state-owned Development Bank of Japan is reluctant to prop up Hitachi’s nuclear business in the UK saying ‘the risk is very big.’”
She complained that secretary of state Greg Clark had been “decidedly coy about what has already been offered to Hitachi. He seems intent on keeping the details of the deal secret for as long as possible. He needs to do more than cherry pick the bits of the National Audit Office’s advice that he likes and conduct a full and transparent review of the strategic case for nuclear, and its financing, before signing anything.”

Other reactions:

Dr Nina Skurupska CBE, chief executive, Renewable Energy Association:

“The government needs to carefully consider the value for money argument before intervening with significant taxpayer support for the multibillion-pound nuclear power plant at Wylfa Newydd.

“Hitachi’s struggles to fund the project privately represent one of the great challenges facing the nuclear industry, that it is highly complex and costly to design, build, operate and maintain a nuclear power station.

“The costs of renewables are falling all the time whilst the clean technology sector continues to set records for generation, it is much quicker & cheaper to build an energy from waste, solar, wind or biomass plant than continue to pursue nuclear investment.”

Matt Rooney, engineering policy adviser, Institution of Mechanical Engineers:

“The Institution of Mechanical Engineers welcomes this step …

“Both the construction of the plant, and its operation, would provide hundreds of high-skilled engineering jobs in North Wales for decades to come. It would also bolster the long-term outlook for the nuclear manufacturing supply chain in the UK. This is especially important following the decision to leave the European Union, and the potential loss of access to the single market for nuclear good and services.

“The statement by the government that it may invest directly in electricity generation is a major development. It recognises the important role that state financing could play in reducing the cost of large-scale, low-carbon energy projects.”

Chris Hewett, chief executive, Solar Trade Association:
“When Hinkley Point C was given the green light three years ago, we pointed out that the UK solar industry could already supply clean power at half the price. …
“It is essential that barriers to solar power be removed and that government allow the technology to compete on a level playing field. Otherwise, the UK risks working against the tide of technological change and market forces, at huge costs to consumers and our economy.
“They have been warned: their own adviser Professor Dieter Helm rightly highlights that nuclear has a much higher risk of economic stranding given the rapid technology change being driven by solar, EVs, digitalisation and storage.”

Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary, Prospect:

“The government’s decision to take a direct stake in the Wylfa nuclear power plant is a sensible move that needs to be adopted for wider UK energy policy decisions to allow a low-carbon infrastructure to be fully developed.

“By taking a share in this project the costs can be lowered, work can be directed to UK companies and the UK’s skills base can be developed. In order to capitalise on this the government must take a similar approach to other sites such as Moorside in Cumbria.

“This decision cannot be viewed as a one-off and needs to be seen as a wider deal.”

Related content:

BEIS committee warns: ‘hard’ Euratom exit ‘highly risky’ for nuclear sector and puts power plant operations in doubt

Hinkley Point C: government made ‘grave strategic errors’ and customers will bear the cost for decades, says Public Accounts Committee


1 comment for “Greenpeace warns UK stake in new nuclear at Wylfa breaches EU competition rules

  1. June 8, 2018 at 9:54 AM

    “”…Dr Nina Skurupska CBE, chief executive, Renewable Energy Association: “The government needs to carefully consider the value for money argument…”"

    Wylfa, operating at a capacity factor of 90%, will deliver 6% of the UK’s electricity needs every year, in the form of low-carbon, 24/7, grid-friendly electricity, for its 60 year design life. There’s a highly probable it will be licensed for a [low-cost] life extension to 80 years.

    It would take 818 of the very latest 9.5 MW offshore wind farms, with an average capacity factor of 31.25%, over their [hoped for] 25 year lifespan to deliver the same amount of electricity each year. It will be in the form of intermittent, grid-degrading electricity – a truly appalling product that will forever require fossil-fuelled back up – at a capital cost of £14,724 million.

    But those 818 turbines will have to be built a 2nd time and be 10 years into the 3rd build before 60 years of generation is reached – that’s a factor of X2.4 and a capital cost of £35,338 million.

    Dr Nina Skurupska CBE needs to carefully consider the value for money argument, as the capital cost of renewables are in the order of 2X to 3X the cost of nuclear.

    She also needs to consider other tragic issues wrought by renewables. The reason for the horrendous capital cost of renewables – the very best being wind power – is that wind power uses 10X more metals and 20X more concrete than nuclear power.

    Every step of the way, from mining and quarrying through to final decommissioning, at least 30X more precious resource and energy use, accompanied by at least 30X more environmental desecration, ecosystem destruction and species wipe-out characterise renewables technologies.

    Those with genuine environmental concerns should not be fooled by electricity prices – a political/commercial construct designed to promote renewables – and hyped to the high-heavens by Dr Skurupska and her ilk.

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