New Oldbury nuclear plant plans frozen

January 28 2019
New Oldbury nuclear plant plans frozen

PLANS for a new nuclear power station near Thornbury have been put on ice indefinitely.

Building a new plant near the site of the previous Oldbury power station would have created up to 9,000 jobs. Once operational, it was expected to have an estimated 850 permanent employees.

But operator Horizon Nuclear Power announced on January 17 that it was suspending its entire UK nuclear development programme, including Oldbury and another plant, Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey in Wales, which was further advanced in planning.

The company said it would be suspending development “until a solution can be found”. But all work has stopped immediately and the future of the 395 people currently working for Horizon is in doubt.

Horizon chief executive Duncan Hawthorne said: “We have been in close discussions with the UK government, in cooperation with the government of Japan, on the financing and associated commercial arrangements for our project for some years now. I am very sorry to say that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned.

As a result, we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project, as well as

work related to Oldbury, until a solution can be found. In the meantime we will take steps to

reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

Plans to build a new reactor at Oldbury were first announced almost 10 years ago, when Horizon was owned by E.ON and German power firm RWE.

The government approved a new reactor on the site a year later but in 2012 – the same year the previous Magnox plant stopped generating after 44 years – the scheme was shelved. It was revived later that year, when Horizon was bought by Japanese firm Hitachi.

Horizon’s plan for Oldbury involved a plant with two UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, generating 2.9 gigawatts of low-carbon electricity – enough, the company said, to power 5.5 million homes.

Construction work at the Shepperdine site was planned to begin only after the Wylfa plant was complete, some time in the late 2020s. It was expected to involve an average workforce of 4,000, peaking at 9,000.

The decision to suspend the programme was taken by Hitachi at a board meeting in Japan. The company faces losing £2 billion it has already invested and 330 people at Horizon’s Gloucester headquarters, plus another 65 developing the site at Wylfa, face redundancy.

Describing Horizon’s staff as “a very capable organisation of talented and committed people”, Mr Hawthorne said: “Clearly this will have a significant impact for all involved with our project.

We will look to minimise this as much as possible as we move into this next phase and we will begin consultation on the implications immediately with our staff, who have shown extraordinary

talent, resilience and determination to take this complex and exciting project to this stage.”

He added that Horizon would “engage closely” with stakeholders including the “key representatives around Oldbury”.

Picture shows the existing Oldbury power station site, which is now being decommissioned. The new plant would have been built nearby on land at Shepperdine. Photo: Horizon Nuclear Power