Japanese conglomerate Hitachi has decided to end work on two nuclear power projects in the UK.
Hitachi had already suspended work on the two projects — Wylfa Newydd and Oldbury — in January 2019. Each plant would have provided 2.9GW of generation capacity.
Hitachi initially suspended the projects after it was unable to secure a financing agreement with the UK government — despite the government offering to take a one-third stake in the projects.
The company said today that "the investment environment has become increasingly severe due to the impact of Covid-19".
Hitachi subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power will now begin the orderly closing down of all development activities on the sites. It said the sites are "highly desirable… for new nuclear build", and that it would seek to facilitate the prospects for development.
Hitachi's withdrawal is another blow to the UK's nuclear policy. Japanese company Toshiba in 2018 wound up its UK subsidiary NuGeneration, which was assessing the prospects for building a 3.4GW nuclear plant in the UK.
The UK is considering a regulated asset base (RAB) model for nuclear projects, where developers would receive a regulated rate of return on capital, and some risks would be shifted to the state. Details are expected in an energy white paper policy document, which has been delayed for more than a year but is due to be published this autumn.
Just one nuclear plant is under construction in the UK at present, the 3.2GW Hinkley Point C station. It is being developed by French state-controlled utility EdF, with Chinese firm CGN owning a minority stake. The first Hinkley C unit is targeting completion in 2025, with the second unit to follow in 2027.
EdF is also seeking to build the 3.2GW Sizewell C project, and submitted a development consent order in May. The company is pushing for the project to be financed through the RAB model.
CGN has a minority stake in Sizewell C, and it is the lead developer behind the proposed 2.3GW Bradwell station, which completed the first stage of a public consultation in July.
But rising tensions between the UK and China could threaten Bradwell. The UK has already banned Chinese company Huawei from developing 5G mobile phone networks in the country. And some ruling Conservative Party members of Parliament have expressed security concerns about the Bradwell project.
UK installed nuclear capacity of 9GW will fall sharply this decade as older plants are decommissioned. EdF recently brought forward the retirement date of the Hunterston B plant by a year to 2022. The 1.2GW Sizewell B station is the only operational nuclear plant due to still be on line in 2030.